Two weeks ago, UN Women, a United Nations gender initiative, made big news at the opening of the Commission on the Status of Women conference in New York City when it announced it would partner with ride-sharing service Uber to "create 1 milliin jobs for women as drivers on the Uber platform by 2020."
Politics, however, have gotten in the way, with international trade unions pushing UN Women out of the partnership. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
A coalition of trade unions responded to the proposed collaboration by pointing to the reports of harassment and assault that, on top of allegations of unfair pricing and breaches of privacy, have dogged the ride service.
"As unions and NGOs we find it astonishing that UN Women is linking to this organisation, based on a promise of a million jobs that we know are likely to be insecure, ill paid, and potentially unsafe," Brigitta Paas, vice president of the International Transport Workers' Federation, a global union coalition that frequently challenges Uber, said during the conference.
"We urge the UN Women organisation to reconsider this announcement of their partnership with Uber.without delay," Ms. Paas added.
Uber operates out of 55 countries, and reports of harassment related to the service have surfaced from a number of them.
Like the population of Uber drivers, transport workers are accused of harassment too. And the International Transport Workers' Federation's effort to torpedo the Uber deal was not accompanied by any job creation initiative of the trade unions. UN Women was going to partner with Uber to help women with limited access to the Internet and the Internet economy to secure gainful, independent, employment. The trade unions didn't have an alternative and aren't making any efforts to bring in more women, with or without a partnership with UN Women. They are just committed to using their resources, largely siphoned from their workers, to limit the visibility of their competitors.
UN Women didn't frame its decision as one based on political correctness (opposing Uber being the politically correct position for pro-trade unionists) but rather pointed to Uber's perceived failure to protect female drivers and passengers, a failure that is not unique to Uber and has not been demonstrated to exist at any less significant rate in the wider hired driver industry. Will UN Women next revisit its partnership with the United Nations? After all, UN staff are regularly accused of sexual abuse.
Much of the developing world went from no phones to mobile phones, skipping landlines all together because of the infrastructure costs. Mobile technologies have made it easier for isolated communities to communicate with each other, look up market prices, and do other business. Uber and apps like it that connect customers to independent individual service-providers have the potential to have a similar transformative effect on developing economies. If the entrenched interests of old don't use the power they've carved out for themselves in the legal frameworks of countries around the world to stop it.