Uber is not a fan of unionization like many corporations. The main front in the ride-share/unionization battle is currently in Seattle, where Uber filed suit against the city in January to challenge the city’s authority to instrument a law that would allow ride-share drivers to unionize. Both in Seattle and elsewhere, Uber reaches out to its employees and its independent contractor drivers to share data on a variety of topics through podcasts, text messages and voluntary driver meetings. The information ranges from mundane topics like how to make more money to, in Uber’s view, how the city’s unionization law would negatively affect drivers.
Nathan Hambley, Uber’s spokesperson pushed back on a story from The Wall Street Journal over the weekend that suggested Uber drivers in Seattle were compelled to choose whether or not to listen to the company-produced podcasts every day before they can begin picking up riders. The podcasts, which are produced in a number of geographic markets for Uber drivers, arrive as notifications at the bottom of the app that can be ignored or dismissed or acted upon to start the latest podcast episode, which usually runs under 10 minutes. In fact, there isn’t a way for Uber to force drivers to do much of anything.
At first, the notification appears as the limited message on the left, and, after the driver swipes up, the full message appears. The notification remains at the bottom of the driver screen regardless of whether it is ignored, or if the podcast is listened to or not. Regarding podcast notifications, Hambley said, “Like messages at the bottom of the rider app, they cannot be completely removed.” Of course, not everyone agrees that Uber’s independent contractor model is in the best interest of the drivers. That’s something that numerous lawsuits across several states have addressed, but the independent contractor model remains.
To be sure, the websites and podcasts are Uber propaganda, but it’s hardly out of the ordinary for a company to respond to unionization efforts in this fashion. The Teamsters union is with unionization effort and is doing the same thing. It’s a war of words, and even though both sides are hard to ignore, drivers aren’t required to pay any attention if they don’t wish to.