Uber Bans Guns in Cars
June 22, 2015
Uber is one of those new-economy companies that uses an army of freelancers it calls driver-partners to provide ride-sharing services dispatched using its app. It has been so successful that it has an estimated value of almost $50 billion.
Uber argues it is not a transportation company, and that all it does is connect people who want to go somewhere with contractors, more than a million of them worldwide, who provide rides. That, very conveniently for Uber, means no health insurance, 401Ks, days off or any of those other annoying benefits that employers have to provide employees.
Unfortunately for the sexy startup, the California Labor Commission recently ruled that Uber drivers are actually employees eligible for the benefits and protections that come with employee status. Though Uber vows to fight it, the ruling is clearly a threat to its very profitable business model.
What, you may ask, does that have to do with guns? Uber has forbidden all its supposed free-agent drivers to carry guns or to pick up anyone with a gun. So Uber gets to tell you how you may protect yourself (prayer, maybe?) and restricts you from carrying a whole class of passengers. Sounds like you're an employee to me.
Uber is here representative of the hypocrisy of so many of our "new economy" businesses. Its business model is exploitative in a way that would gladden the flinty hearts of Commodore Vanderbilt or Henry Clay Frick. It uses a phony "contractor" labor arrangement to maximize its take and minimize what it returns to labor. This model is best represented by the strip club, though strip club owners at least spare us the sanctimony.
Then, to maintain its street cred in the pink precincts of its San Francisco hometown, it treats its "contractors" as wage slaves to be ordered around about guns, a surefire bogey in the Bay Area. This is a well-proven formula in the California tech industry: act like John D. Rockefeller when it comes to the bottom line, while espousing "progressive" orthodoxy on social issues.
I was already disinclined to utilize a business that mainly served to undercut local taxi owners, but the no-guns policy is a deal-breaker. We can do without either robber barons or parlor Bolsheviks, and certainly don't need a combination of the two. My advice? Use your local cab service.