Alas, for Uber Seattle, we do not live in a Randian utopia where entrepreneurs—because their inventions are so neat!—can do whatever they want. There's pesky stuff like municipal regulations! (They've vowed to fight those.) And now, drivers protesting working conditions at the company!
In a public event on Sunday at 2 p.m., the Teamsters Local 117 and OneAmerica announce in press release, Uber and UberX drivers will describe the company’s "predatory practices, the unwarranted deactivation of drivers from the Uber app and flaws with the company’s rating system," at the Yesler Community Center. Seattle City Council members Mike O'Brien and Kshama Sawant will be there.
"My rating went to a 4.6 (out of a five-star rating) and they suspended me," said former Uber driver, Will Anderson, in the release. "They just turned my phone off. They didn’t give me a warning, they didn’t give me a week’s notice...And they’ve done that to a lot of people. That’s huge—if you make an investment in a vehicle and you have a family you need to feed."
I'll have more on this next week, but in a statement—surprise!—Uber rejected the allegations. "Uber uses a rating system that is based directly on rider feedback and is an average of the rating they received after completing a trip with a rider," says Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger. "If a partner is consistently receiving negative feedback, partners are provided with the opportunity to improve their service level. If riders continue to complain, the partnership may be ended with that driver as they are not able to provide the level of service that our riders demand." And, she says, there's an appeal process for "deactivation."
Uber has been banned in Portland, New Orleans and Miami, and there's growing pushback from drivers and officials from Houston to San Francisco. But let's not throw it under the bus (remember buses?) yet. If the company's going to strike the right tone and handle worker complaints constructively, Seattle's a great place to start.