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The Ugly Truth About Uber’s Blood-Sucking Coronavirus Bailout Plea

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:46 PM
Mark Emem
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:46 PM
  • Uber drivers are in dire straits amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wants the government to bail freelance workers out, but his plea is anything but altruistic.
  • Firms that depend on independent contractors, including Uber, have fought fiercely against giving gig workers benefits.

As the coronavirus pandemic pummels the United States, millions of gig economy workers suddenly find their livelihoods at risk. Widespread lockdowns have rocked Uber drivers particularly hard because ride requests have plunged to perilous levels.

The rideshare sector experienced growth in January and February, only to see fares plunge more than 20%  the week that ended March 16. And that was before the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S.  reached alarming proportions.

Uber stimulus bailout
Source: Twitter 

Another hypocritical, self-serving move by Uber

To mitigate the problem, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has been begging the U.S. Congress to bail out its drivers  who are suffering as a result of reduced demand.

Some Uber drivers are already staring at financial ruin . And they aren’t just struggling to make ends meet following the coronavirus-induced demand shock. Some of them could lose their cars – the ones they need to work for Uber – because they don’t have enough income to make payments.

Khosrowshahi is absolutely right that Uber drivers need help. But a hero for gig workers, he is not.

This move is anything but noble. The $50 billion company has spent years fighting tooth and nail to keep drivers underpaid , ineligible for benefits, and highly vulnerable to economic headwinds.

Uber’s gesture is nakedly hypocritical. The best time to start looking out for drivers’ welfare was months ago, long before the coronavirus pandemic hit. And the solution is not to rely on the pockets of taxpayers.

Coronavirus has exposed the vulnerability of Uber drivers

Uber’s business model transfers as much risk and as many costs to its drivers as possible. And it wants the government to cushion them against the effects of a historic downturn.

Why? Not because it cares about drivers.

Uber is only fighting for its survival. When the coronavirus-induced economic crisis is over, the company needs these drivers to return to work. As independent contractors.

uber worker
Uber has long fought regulations that would protect its workers. | Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

The last thing Uber needs is a renewed push to reclassify gig workers as employees. Renewed scrutiny of the vulnerability of contractors could lead to more regulations to protect freelancers, not just in the U.S. but around the world.

That could destroy Uber’s business model , which is why the company fiercely opposed California’s gig-worker protection law, Assembly Bill 5.

It’s hilariously self-serving for Khosrowshahi to suddenly pretend to be a champion of his drivers’ welfare.

He’s not fooling anyone.

As the infamous quote attributed to Nikita Khrushchev states :

When you are skinning your customers, you should leave some skin on to heal, so that you can skin them again.

Uber is taking that strategy a step further.

It’s leaving “skin” on its independent contractors to “heal,” sure. But entirely at the government’s cost.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.