Uber, the ride-sharing app valued at over $60 billion, is using TV commercials and in-app podcasts to spread anti-union messages as the tech company tries to prevent its drivers in Seattle from organizing with the Teamsters.
The podcast, which is hosted by Brooke Steger, the general manager for Uber in the Pacific Northwest, is on its 18th episode and can be found in the Uber app when drivers sign to start work, Quartz reports. On the latest show, an Uber driver named Frederick says it is "absurd and absolutely baffling" that the Teamsters are organizing drivers because the union "is closely tied" to traditional taxicabs and fought to prevent Uber's expansion in the city.
"As a small business owner, the prospect of being represented by the Teamsters is seriously concerning to me," says Frederick, who sounds like he's reading from a script. Frederick says he doesn't want to "hand over" his "flexibility and freedom" to the Teamsters.
Uber drivers in California, Washington, New York, and elsewhere are also trying to unionize after fare cuts, Quartz reports.
Uber has a lot to lose if its drivers unionize. Uber drivers, and drivers for other ride-sharing apps like Lyft, are independent contractors, not employees. The distinction means drivers are not salaried and don't receive employee-sponsored healthcare or other employee benefits. Uber saves a lot of money by using independent contractors and drivers have the freedom to work whenever, wherever, and for however long they want.
In 2015, the Seattle city council passed an ordinance, the first of its kind in the US, to allow drivers for ride-sharing apps and taxis to collectively bargain for better pay and other benefits. In January, Uber fired back against the city's ordinance with a lawsuit, claiming it's illegal to allow independent contractors to unionize.
On March 3, the city formally approved the Teamsters local 117 to represent Uber drivers. The Teamsters now have 120 days to gather support from drivers and collect signatures, Quartz reports.
Shortly after the city passed the ordinance, Uber started a media campaign to spread its anti-union message. Last year, Uber ran TV commercials during Seattle Seahawks football games to explain why unionizing would hurt drivers.