Want a Career As A Sitting Duck? Join A Ride Hailing Company
December 14, 2016 (fault Lines) — Los Angeles has been cracking down on thousands of ride-hail drivers who veer off their apps to make a living. A cop acts like a pedestrian looking for a ride, the driver pulls over and the cop says he doesn’t have the app but has cash. As soon as the driver takes the payment . . . Wham, light’s sirens, handcuffs and a tow truck. Off to jail they go and the car is impounded.
As the Orange County Register reports, this sting mechanism is actually funded by licensed taxi drivers who pay $30 a month per taxi. A 20 cent fare hike pays for it and what you get is a city that taxes one group on behalf of another.
You might have no sympathy for people who drive under the Uber and Lyft Banners. Especially if you forked over $250,000 for a taxi medallion in a city like San Francisco or twice that (or more) in New York City. It doesn’t seem fair for a bunch of untrained newbie’s to come along and pay nothing to jump right in the game.
There’s no law saying things have to be fair, as a bunch of cab drivers from Chicago recently discovered when they made the claim that the artificially restricted price fixing that cab medallions are based on is a form of property. This case made it to the court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and Judge Richard Posner handed down a dose of reality:
The plaintiffs’ contention that the increased number of permits has taken property away from the plaintiffs without compensation, in violation of the constitutional protection of property, borders on the absurd. Property can take a variety of forms, some of them intangible, such as patents. But a taxi permit confers only a right to operate a taxicab (a right which, in Milwaukee, may be sold). It does not create a right to be an oligopolist, and thus confers no right to exclude others from operating taxis.
This ruling may seem like a slap in the face to people who have a lot of money invested in trying to run a legal and viable cab business, so who cares if some Uber drivers get arrested, after all, there’s no fairness law right?
We all should, that’s who.
Because it’s not Uber or Lyft that cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco are going after; it’s just people trying to make a living. Ride hail app company execs are not going to jail or having their cars impounded. These drivers are being trampled by three forces much larger than they are.
One: is the economy, which despite the positive job numbers has mostly produced McJobs. Low paying jobs requiring many hours to make ends meet. Try getting a home mortgage as a first time buyer when you can’t claim you’ve been with a solid company for a few years.
Two: is that Uber and Lyft have a huge mechanism for suckering people into driving for them. On Craigslist alone there are blocks of their ads in nearly every job category. Even in the writing gigs section. Either they get a great deal or Craigslist is getting rich off these companies. Numerous lawsuits have been filed by drivers over wage claims, and by now the semi-informed should be very wary of signing up with any of these ride-app companies. Yet it doesn’t stop people from signing-on.
The streets of San Francisco are infested with ride-hail drivers, idling their hybrids in red zones only to quickly slip out and cruise around the block when a cop or meter maid is spotted, then slip back in the spot. All day long, waiting for the app to signal a ride is needed. There is so much saturation that these drivers could only make the advertized wage if they sat in their car all day. And maybe not even then.
Third: are the legal entities. Arresting these drivers for a minor violation then impounding their car is a very punitive move by the City of Los Angeles. Such an occurrence could wipe someone out and send them down the road to homelessness. Men who are arrested for soliciting prostitution are often treated with more leniency, and that’s called human trafficking. These arrests and impoundments don’t hurt Uber or Lyft.
In San Francisco, the city announced it would make 37,000 Uber and Lyft drivers pay $91.00 a year for a business license, while Uber fight’s them in court over whether they are independent contractors or not.
Uber and Lyft are not the only companies making a killing off of people simply trying to make a living. There are a number of companies who have an app platform and all you have to do is have your own late model car or truck and they will be happy to take a fat percentage of your labors while you do mobile auto repair, deliver food, drive passengers, pick-up laundry or do handyman work. When your vehicle breaks down, you’re out of a job.
When your labors flip you on the wrong side of the law, the app company is safe and sound while you take the hit.
The gig economy is screwing people who just want a roof over their heads and food for their kids. When cities go after the low hanging fruit instead of the corporate entities, it’s a disgrace and we should all be concerned.