Category Archive: Uncategorized

Jul 29

Uber’s Mounting Labor Issues and What it Means for Business

By: Samuel Wiles

Recently, Uber has suffered an array of public relations setbacks due, in part, to poor treatment of its own workforce.  Consumers today are highly conscious of the internal operations of businesses and sometimes react to negative press affecting those businesses. Issues facing Uber include breaking strikes, classifying drivers as independent contractors, and fostering a hostile work environment. If these issues are not quelled sooner than later, they could cause lasting damage to Uber’s reputation.

Uber’s labor relation issues have spilled beyond its offices, drawing the ire of social activists and unionized labor for either intentionally or inadvertently attempting to break a taxi strike. After President Trump enacted his “travel ban,” the New York Taxi Workers Alliance stopped service to JFK airport because its workforce, which has a sizeable Muslim representation, opposed the ban.[1] Simultaneously, Uber deactivated its surge pricing for rides to and from JFK, thus undermining the taxi workers’ strike.[2] This move spurred some users to delete the Uber app in protest, however, the protest was mostly directed at Uber’s apparent approval of President Trump’s act and less at the negative effect Uber’s actions had on taxi workers and similarly situated workers.[3] Ian Bogost notes in the Atlantic, “political action and political anger still appear far more easily motivated by hostility against identity than against material,” like labor relations in in this case.[4] Here, many Uber users knew to be mad at Uber; they just did not know why to be mad at Uber. But, Uber’s choice to disrupt its competitor’s strike displays hostility towards organized labor that goes beyond its own offices.

Uber also seeks to exert more power over its drivers by having them classified as independent contractors, instead of employees. By classifying its drivers as independent contractors, Uber is effectively able to prevent those drivers from unionizing and and engaging in collective  bargaining.[5] However, some drivers have fought back, making modest gains against Uber. In New York, for example, an administrative law judge ruled the drivers were Uber employees because “Uber exercised sufficient supervision and control over substantial aspects of” drivers’ work.[6]  That said, Uber has also had multiple victories across the country and some states have passed legislation declaring that ride-sharing drivers are contractors, thus leaving the status of the drivers open for debate.[7]

Top officers and other staff, who are categorically considered to be employees, have recently alleged that   Uber, as a corporation, fosters a hostile work environment and that there is pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace. Examples of this include employees groping female co-workers, homophobic slurs, and violent physical threats.[8]  These incidents do not paint Uber in the best light, but to its credit, Uber recently completed a full assessment of its workplace practices and promised to implement those recommendations in an attempt to improve its workplace culture

Uber’s users, and the general public for that matter, react to the way Uber treats its workforce. After the incident at JFK in January, at least 200,000 Uber users deleted the app (although it is plausible many of those re-downloaded it soon after). Additionally, Uber’s main competitor, Lyft, has eaten away at Uber’s commanding share of the market.[9]  If Uber is serious about improving not only its image and profitability, but also the quality of life for all its employees (and contractors) it will move to improve its workplace culture and labor relation practices in the future. If it does not, it is possible that Uber’s short-term losses to its competitors could become endemic and could severely weaken the economic success of the company.

 

References

[1] Ian Bogost, Is #DeleteUber Good for Workers’ Rights?, The Atlantic Monthly, Jan. 31, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/01/delete-uber-campaign/515112/.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Dan Rivoli, N.Y. judge grants Uber drivers employee status, New York Daily News, June 13, 2017, http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/n-y-judge-grants-uber-drivers-employee-status-article-1.3245310.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Mike Isaac, Inside Uber’s Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture, New York Times, Feb. 22, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/technology/uber-workplace-culture.html.

[9] Adam Vaccaro, With Uber in Chaos, is this Lyft’s Time to Shine?, The Boston Globe, June 15, 2017, https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2017/06/15/with-uber-chaos-this-lyft-time-shine/fU1OyTHnwkEfjlWDnWSJyM/story.html.

Jun 10

Memorial Services for Joseph Fannell

We have some very unfortunate news to share. A member of our Labor and Employment Law family, Jeff Fannell, has lost his 22-year-old son, Joseph. As many of you know first-hand, Jeff is a superb professor and a spectacular alumnus. He is a double alum of St. John’s (CPS ’92, LAW ’96), a long-time adjunct professor, and the inaugural Deputy Director for St. John’s Sports Law L.L.M. Program. The wake and funeral will be in New Jersey on Friday. I am sure the Fannell family would greatly appreciate the support from the St. John’s community. Details are attached.

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Mar 29

Updated Syllabus for L&E Arbitration

Attention Students! The syllabus for Labor and Employment Arbitration has been updated to reflect the updated class schedule. Find it here: Labor and Employment Arbitration Syllabus revised March 29 2015 or see the LRELS TWEN page.

Mar 02

ABC Labor Relations Intern Summer 2015

This internship opportunity was forwarded along, which provides an exceptional opportunity to work for a well-known company with a highly unionized workforce. The job link is here and can also be accessed on Symplicity.

Feb 09

NEXT LRLES General Body Meeting Feb 10th at 5:30pm!

The general meeting of the Labor Relations And Employment Law Society will be TOMORROW 2/10/15 in room 2M-08 at 5:30pm. ELECTIONS will take place and the process for applying for scholarships will be announced. Professor Gregory will discuss the job search, electives, cover letters, resumes, networking, scholarship and employment opportunities, and our upcoming events.

We hope to see you there!

Oct 21

Next Labor Relations and Employment Law Society Meeting

The next Labor Relations and Employment Law Society Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 4th at 5:30pm. Hope to see you all there!

Oct 16

October Events!

Stay tuned for the next Labor Relations and Employment Law Society meeting date, time, and location!

Friday, October 24th, Catholic Worker Mary House at 7:30pm
Triple Alumnus Dr. Charles Russo, Law School Class of 1983, and Panzer Chair at the University of Dayton School of Education, and Adjunct Professor of Law, will discuss education as a global human right. In addition to being the primary author of the leading text book on Education Law, Dr. Russo is the author of hundreds of professional and academic articles informed by his academic and professional presentations in more than 30 nations. This event will be at the Catholic Worker Mary House, 55 East 3rd Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues in Manhattan.

Monday, October 27th, 4th Floor Atrium at 6pm
Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York (ret.), will reflect on his half century of work to enhance Human Rights, ranging from his work as a newly ordained priest through his many years of friendship with Pope Francis.

Sep 16

Professor Gregory on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

On Tuesday night, Professor David Gregory spoke on NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams about the N.F.L. Scandal and how the commissioner is handling the situation. You can see a video of this here, with the segment regarding the scandal starting at 10:35!

Sep 03

Around the Web – Labor Day 2013

In honor of the end of summer and Labor Day, the STJCLEL Blog brings you a special edition of Around the Web. Here is a compilation of interesting links and articles to invigorate your work day!

Labor Contract Negotiations are coming to New York City
New York’s Next Mayor Faces Union Showdown
With the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s term approaching, NYC braces for the renegotiation of all union contracts with the city. This article outlines the uphill battle that may or may not be ahead of the city, and how these negotiations could set an example for other state and local governments around the country.

NLRB launches APP
The NLRB app (for iPhone and Android) provides information regarding their rights and obligations under the National Labor Relations Act. Read the press release here, or just check out the app for yourself through ITunes or Google Play.

The History of Labor Day
If all you know about Labor Day is that it is the last acceptable day to wear white pants, read this primer from the Department of Labor to catch up on the origins of the holiday. Next, read this assessment of the current working conditions.

Enjoy the week! Leave anything of interest that we might have forgotten in the comments!

Aug 19

Scholarship Reminder!

SEPTEMBER 3 at 6 pm is the application deadline for the Jackson Lewis Scholarship for Excellence in Labor and EmploymentLaw inMemory of Alan C. Becker, and the Cesar Chavez Memorial Prize.

The Jackson Lewis Scholarship is open to any student and the Cesar Chavez Memorial Prize is limited to students graduating in 2014.

The winners will be announced at the Annual Management Lawyer’s Colloquium (in the 4th Floor Atrium on Monday, September 16 at 5:30pm.

It’s not too late to apply! Find the applications here!

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