Regulation

New York Uber Drivers Create Labor Group

Uber's loss in a class-action lawsuit filed by its drivers in California and Massachusetts has opened a new can of worms for the ride-hailing company.

The latest in its problems is a potential revolt from New York-based drivers who have come together to form an association called Amalgamated Local of Livery Employees in Solidarity (Alles) to bolster their position against the company — much like their counterparts who won $100 million in a settlement over expense claims.

"Since Uber management controls the fares charged for the service, drivers want and need security and protection," the association said. "Uber financiers are forcing drivers to work long hours without any benefits or labor law protections."

Alles, which now has a membership of over 1,000 Uber drivers, says it aims to protect the labor rights of its members against ride-hailing, app-based companies, like Uber and Lyft, and insurance companies, among others, by working with state and local governments to better protect workers who aren't classified as full-time employees that are eligible for benefits.

Many of the Uber drivers heavily rely on using the ride-hailing app model to support their families, make timely payments and maintain their car, which reflects that drivers are "really hurting," said Kevin Lynch, cochairman of Alles.

While Uber continues to maintain its position on the issue by saying that its drivers are independent contractors, which makes them ineligible to reap benefits from the company, its settlement with drivers in California and Massachusetts now allows its contractors to form associations. In turn, Uber gets to avoid reclassification of its workforce.

Now, the San Francisco-based company is facing yet another class-action lawsuit from drivers in Florida and Illinois.

“Uber tried to piecemeal this and said, ‘OK, we’ll just settle with California and Massachusetts drivers,’” said Brian H. Mahany, the plaintiff attorney who filed the class-action lawsuit in Illinois. “That’s like sticking your finger in a dam when there’s water pouring out all over the place."

“For many drivers, this is their livelihood. These people are entitled to minimum wage and overtime, just like everyone else," Mahany added.

Though the settlement of the class-action lawsuit representing California and Massachusetts drivers has yet to get an approval from a U.S. federal judge, the company is now expected to see a plethora of such lawsuits.

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