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Concerns Deepen As Uber Protests Drive On

Since its launch in Los Angeles in March 2012, Uber has generated an enormous user base and is now valued at over $18.2 billion. Yet its drivers are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their treatment in the workplace, and Tuesday saw the first event where drivers from Uber itself took up the majority of the stand.

Teamsters Local 986 Union and members of the I Am A Driver group have been expressing their discontent and have generated a huge talking point in the community. The stand on Tuesday added to a string of protests from both Uber and other taxi company drivers- over 100 Uber drivers and many more family members and friends congregated at Uber Technologies Inc. on 7th Street in Santa Monica.

The protesters are urging lawmakers to close the insurance gap within UberX, whereby drivers are not covered without a passenger in the car, despite being on the clock and on shift. They are pushing for Assembly Bill 2293 to be passed at the state assembly, which demands 24-hour insurance coverage. This bill will be heard in the Senate Insurance Committee on Wednesday.

UberX is a more affordable option of Uber's transport service, compared to the more luxurious UberBlack and UberSUV, in which drivers are fully covered at all times. UberX has even been prohibited in Australia due to this insurance loophole and rising issues over safety and the legitimacy of its drivers. These events have taken place in America too, including the death of 6-year old Sophia Liu this January.

"The way the system is currently run is not in the best interest of public safety" said Joseph DeWolf, who co-chairs what is being named the California App-based Drivers' Association.

In response, Uber issued an email to its users earlier in the week asking those to vote against what they are calling an "anti-Uber legislation", arguing taxi companies "are scared of losing out to ridesharing platforms ... and they'll spread whatever untruths are necessary to protect their bottom lines". Yet it is hard to allow companies such as Uber to cut in on their profit without reaching the same standards.

The second bill floated in the California Legislative Procedure is the AB612, demanding extensive background checks on prospective drivers, including fingerprints and other required permits. This bill also integrates criminal record checks, particularly as an investigation by the NBL4I Team uncovered many Uber drivers with outstanding records.

Metro Cab Santa Monica general manager Shirley Pe said its taxi drivers must undergo expensive background checks and tests, whereas app-based drivers from Uber and Lyft do not seem to be facing the same challenges.

The union is also fighting against arbitrary dismissal- according to many drivers, just one low rating from a service user can see them put off duty. One member was deactivated for 5 days as a result of a 1-star rating, leaving him struggling to feed his family that week.

Uber, Lyft, and other ride sharing services are being barraged on many fronts- and not just here in Santa Monica- San Francisco and Seattle are also joining the fight for better working rights.

The protests have travelled across the pond, too- in early June, protests in London saw companies denoting Uber as illegal practice, equating the Uber app with a taximeter, illegal in private cars. March also saw huge protests in Milan for the same reasons. This huge upset is demanding close attention, and now it's at our front door in Santa Monica.


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