For months now, drivers for the ride-sharing company Uber have been agitating for better pay.
Last week, Peter Robb, the General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), released a memo that deals what is likely a fatal blow to efforts by these drivers to form a union in the hope of obtaining better pay and better working conditions.
The essence of the memo?
Uber drivers are independent contractors – not employees.
The action by the NLRB is the first taken involving the “gig-economy” during the Trump administration.
Independent contractors lack protections granted employees under federal law, such as the right to unionize and bargain collectively.
The memo by Robb effectively kills any hope Uber, or Lyft drivers have of forming a union.
It also represents a reversal from Obama era policies on gig economy workers. That policy effectively implied that workers who found employment opportunities through apps were likely considered employees.
According to the New York Times:
“The immediate consequence of the memo is to render moot three formal accusations, filed in different parts of the country, that Uber had violated federal labor law. The memo instructs the board’s regional offices to dismiss the charges if the people who made them do not withdraw them first.”
Robb’s memo cited the entrepreneurial opportunities that drivers have when working for ride-sharing companies as the “animating principle” he used in making his determination about contractor status.
According to Robb:
“The drivers had significant entrepreneurial opportunity by virtue of their near complete control of their cars and work schedules, together with freedom to choose login locations and to work for competitors of Uber.”
Wilma Liebman, who served as Chairperson of the NLRB under President Obama, disagrees with Robb. She cites the fact that drivers are unable to set prices or market their personal services to the community as evidence that the claim of entrepreneurial opportunity is overstated.
Does this spell the end of efforts by drivers to seek concessions from Uber and others?
If you’re an employer and have questions about labor and employment law, consider calling on the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Connecticut. We do one thing and one thing only – we are an employer defense law firm – in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in the region. What’s more, each of our attorneys has over 20 years of experience in employment law and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please contact us if we can help you.
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