The UK’s App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) staged a 24-hour strike on Wednesday to demand Uber be held accountable for the findings of the Uber Files, a trove of thousands of leaked confidential documents that show how the ride-hail company broke laws, secretly lobbied governments and exploited driver safety to expand aggressively from 2013 to 2017.
The ADCU asked drivers not to open the app on Wednesday and asked passengers to not use the service. The union also held a public demonstration at Uber UK’s head office at Aldgate Towers in London between 12pm and 2pm on Wednesday. The ADCU said there was “good observance” of the picket line.
The union is demanding that Uber immediately obey the UK’s Supreme Court ruling on worker rights in full, which last year re-classified Uber drivers as workers. The judges ruled that Uber should enter into a direct contract with passengers when providing car journeys to assume a greater share of the responsibility for each trip.
Furthermore, the ADCU demands that Uber pay its drivers back-pay owed as a result of the court ruling; end “unethical political influencing in the UK,” and dismiss executive board member Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, a “convicted criminal in France, whose conduct which endangered drivers and passengers was exposed in the Uber Files,” according to a statement from the union.
“Uber is desperate to whitewash away the Uber Files revelations as sins of the distant past, but management behaviour is as egregious now as ever it was,” said Yaseen Aslam, ADCU president, in a statement. “Uber continues to defy the Supreme Court ruling to deny drivers their full rights to minimum wage and holiday pay for all working time. In making partial settlement in the wake of the landmark ruling, Uber took advantage of vulnerable drivers, already impoverished by the pandemic, to pressure them to settle for far less than what was really owed and to surrender their statutory rights.”
Uber did make some changes to the way it treats drivers in the UK after the Supreme Court ruling. In a regulatory filing, Uber said drivers would be paid holiday time, automatically enrolled into a pension plan and will earn at least the minimum wage as an earnings floor.
However, ADCU says these moves fall short of the Supreme Court and lower court rulings to pay drivers at least the minimum wage after costs for all working time from log on to log off. Instead, Uber only counts the hours and minutes between dispatch and drop off, excluding waiting time, which the union says leaves drivers short-changed of about 40% of their true working time.
In addition to ensuring drivers are paid during down time, the union demands that Uber increase fares to £2.50 per mile and 20p per minute and that Uber’s commission be capped at 15%, rather than the current 25%.
The Uber Files also brought to light the ride-hail giant’s political influence. For example, back when French President Emmanuel Macron was an economy minister, he was on a first name basis with ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and appears to have helped change policy in Uber’s favor.
The ADCU said it was concerned about Uber’s targeting of Labour party MPs like Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper. The union claims Uber executives participated in Labour party conference events last year, and Uber recently hired Princess Bright, a Labour party councillor. Aside from demanding that Uber end all “corrupt political influencing,” the union also asks that politicians commit to zero influence contact with Uber until the company can demonstrate that it’s on its best behavior.
The Uber Files also show Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, who is now in charge of Uber Eats, exchanging text messages with other executives about Uber’s “kill switch.” The kill switch was usually engaged when law enforcement came knocking, and would allow Uber to restrict officers’ access to sensitive company data. This was part of Gore-Coty’s reported “playbook to fight enforcement.”
The union argues that by employing a senior staffer who was involved in activity designed to thwart regulatory oversight in the UK or any other jurisdiction, Uber is in breach of a 2018 license condition.
Among these demands, James Farrar, ADCU general secretary and former Uber driver, also called on the whistleblower, former Uber lobbyist Mark McCann, to provide direct testimony on what went on inside the company.
Uber posits that it has been ensuring drivers earn a living wage after expenses, as well as holiday pay, which is given out weekly as cash, and pension contributions. This has been going on since May 2021, and ever since then, eligible drivers have received over £100 million in pension contributions and £185.5 million in holiday pay from Uber, according to a company spokesperson.
“With demand up following the pandemic, Uber drivers are earning more than ever – in the first quarter of 2022, they earned on average £29.72ph, including holiday pay, when actively engaged on the app,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch. “The combination of higher earnings, new protections such as holiday pay and a pension and trade union recognition in the UK has led to more than 10,000 new drivers signing up with Uber in recent months.”
The strike lasted from midnight to midnight. It’s not clear how many drivers and passengers took part.
Uber to sunset free loyalty program in favor of subscription membership
Ride-hailing giant Uber is shutting down its free loyalty program, Uber Rewards, so it can focus on its subscription-based Uber One membership.
Uber first launched the rewards program in 2018 as a sort of frequent flyer scheme that allowed riders to earn points for every dollar spent on rides or Uber Eats deliveries. Those points could then be used to get discounts on future rides or deliveries. In November 2021, Uber began introducing Uber One, which, for $9.99 per month or $99.99 annually, allows members perks like 5% off certain rides or delivery orders and unlimited $0 delivery fees on food orders of over $15 and grocery orders of over $30.
In an email sent to customers that was picked up by The Verge, Uber said users can still earn points via the legacy rewards program until the end of August, and that they can redeem those points until October 31. Uber Rewards will officially shut down on November 1, 2022, according to an update posted by the company.
The Uber Rewards program allowed users to earn 1x point for every Uber Pool dollar spent, 2x for every UberX dollar spent and 3x for every $1 spent on Premium. The number of points accumulated would put members into different castes of loyalty, from Blue to Gold to Platinum to Diamond, the latter of which comes with benefits like access to highly rated drivers, free delivery on three Uber Eats orders, access to better customer service and free upgrades.
While phone support will continue for Diamond users, now the only way to get additional perks with Uber will be to shell out for a subscription. Existing Rewards members will get a free one-month subscription to Uber One, but then will be charged for access. If you’re someone who orders Uber Eats more than twice a month, you can easily break even with the Uber One subscription, but plenty of users might not see the money saving benefits in the switch.
Uber did not respond immediately for clarity as to why it is shutting down the Rewards program in favor of the Uber One membership. Perhaps the company did not see the returns and user loyalty that it would have expected from the program and thinks a subscription offering will provide better returns.
Twilio gets hacked, teens ditch Facebook, and SpaceX takes South Korea to the moon
Is Facebook for old people? If you’ve got a teenager around the house, you’ve probably heard them say as much. The most read story this week is on a Pew study that suggests this generation of teens has largely abandoned the platform in favor of Instagram/YouTube/TikTok/etc.; whereas in 2014 around 71% of teens used Facebook, the study says in 2022 that number has dropped down to 32%.
Mark Cuban sued over crypto platform promotion: “A group of Voyager Digital customers filed a class-action suit in Florida federal court against Cuban, as well as the basketball team he owns, the Dallas Mavericks,” writes Anita, “alleging their promotion of the crypto platform resulted in more than 3.5 million investors losing $5 billion collectively.”
A troubling layoff trend: While tech layoffs might, maybe, hopefully be showing signs of slowing, Natasha M points out a troubling trend: some companies are announcing layoffs only to announce another round of layoffs just weeks or months later.
SpaceX launches South Korea’s first moon mission: South Korea has launched its first-ever lunar mission — a lunar orbiter “launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket” ahead of plans to land on the surface some time in 2030.
Twilio gets hacked: While it’s unclear exactly what data was taken, Twilio says the data of at least 125 customers was accessed after some of its employees were tricked “into handing over their corporate login credentials” by an intense SMS phishing attack.
Amazon’s bizarre new show: Think “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but made up of user-submitted footage from Ring security cameras. By now most people probably realize their every step is recorded on a security camera or three — but doesn’t embracing it as Entertainment™ like this feel kind of…icky?
Haus hits hard times: Haus, a company that ships specialized low-alcohol drinks direct to consumers, is looking for a buyer after a major investor backed out of its Series A. The challenge? Investor diligence for an alcohol company can take months, and Haus just doesn’t “have the cash to support continued operations at this time.”
How clean is the air you breathe every day? Aclima co-founder Davida Herzl wants everyone to be able to answer that question, and sat down with Jordan and Darrell on this week’s Found podcast to explain her mission. Meanwhile on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn and Anita explain the U.S. gov’s crackdown of the cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash, and the Equity crew spent Wednesday’s show discussing whether the turbulent market conditions of late will mean we see fewer early-stage endeavors in the months ahead.
What lies behind the paywall? A lot of really good stuff! Here’s what TechCrunch+ subscribers were reading most this week…
Building an MVP when you can’t code: Got a great idea but can’t code? You can still get the ball rolling. Magnus Grimeland, founder of the early-stage VC firm Antler, lays out some of the key principles to keep in mind.
Are SaaS valuations staging a recovery?: “…the good news for software startup founders,” writes Alex, “is that the period when the deck was being increasingly stacked against them may now be behind us.”
VCs and AI-powered investment tools: Do VCs want AI-powered tools to help them figure out where to put their money? Kyle Wiggers takes a look at the concept, and why not all VCs are on board with it.
After the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago, online threats quickly turn into real-world violence
Threats of violence reached a fever pitch — reminiscent of the days leading up to the Capitol attack — following the news that the FBI raided Trump’s Florida beach club to retrieve classified documents the former president may have unlawfully taken there.
After Trump himself confirmed Monday’s raid at Mar-a-Lago, pro-Trump pundits and politicians rallied around declarations of “war,” and Trump’s ever-fervent supporters called for everything from dismantling the federal law enforcement agency to committing acts of violence against its agents. The situation escalated from there in record time, with online rhetoric boiling over quickly into real-world violence.
By Thursday, an armed man identified as Ricky Shiffer attempted to force his way into an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, brandishing a rifle before fleeing. Law enforcement pursued Shiffer and he was fatally shot during the ensuing standoff with police.
Analysts with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a nonprofit that researches extremism and disinformation, found evidence that Shiffer was driven to commit violence by “conspiratorial beliefs related to former President Trump and the 2020 election…interest in killing federal law enforcement, and the recent search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago earlier this week.” He was also reportedly present at the January 6 attack — another echo between this week’s escalating online threats and the tensions that culminated in political violence at the Capitol that day.
Shiffer appears to have been active on both Twitter and Truth Social, the platform from Trump’s media company that hosts the former president and his supporters. As Thursday’s attack unfolded, Shiffer appeared to post to Truth Social about how his plan to infiltrate the FBI office by breaking through a ballistic glass barrier with a nail gun had gone awry. “Well, I thought I had a way through bullet proof glass, and I didn’t,” the account posted Thursday morning. “If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I., and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops…”
In posts on Truth Social, the account implored others to “be ready to kill the enemy” and “kill the FBI on sight” in light of Monday’s raid at Mar-a-Lago. It also urged followers to heed a “call to arms” to arm themselves and prepare for combat. “If you know of any protests or attacks, please post here,” the account declared earlier this week.
By Friday, that account was removed from the platform and a search of Shiffer’s name mostly surfaced content denouncing his actions. “Why did you censor #rickyshiffer‘s profile? So much for #truth and #transparency,” one Truth Social user posted on Friday. Still, online conspiracies around the week’s events remain in wide circulation on Truth Social and elsewhere, blaming antifa for the attack on the Ohio FBI office, accusing the agency of planting documents at Mar-a-Lago and sowing unfounded fears that well-armed IRS agents will descend on Americans in light of Friday’s House passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
“‘Violence against law enforcement is not the answer no matter what anybody is upset about or who they’re upset with,’ FBI director Christopher Wray said in light of emerging threats of violence this week. Trump appointed Wray to the role in 2017 after infamously ousting former FBI director James Comey.”
Friday is also the five-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally, which saw white nationalists clad in Nazi imagery marching openly through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. The ensuing events left 32-year-old protester Heather Heyer dead and sent political shockwaves through a nation that had largely grown complacent about the simmering threat of white supremacist violence.
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