Unions vs. Uber

U.N. gender bender


At the March opening of the Commission on the Status of Women conference in New York, the United Nations initiative U.N. Women announced it would partner with the ridesharing service Uber to "create 1 million jobs for women." By the end of the conference the U.N. had backtracked.

In between, it faced strong pushback from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITWF). "As unions and NGOs," the vice president of the federation announced, "we find it astonishing that U.N. 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."

The ITWF, a union of unions, met in New York in January to discuss how to fight the ridesharing company, which it claimed was "gutting driver rights and consumer protections." U.N. Women specifically cited Uber's failure at protecting women as the reason it pulled out of the agreement. In response to such concerns, Uber recently hired Joe Sullivan as a chief security officer. He comes from the Department of Justice after stints at Facebook and other tech companies.

Uber is available in more than 50 countries; complaints against it have been widely covered in the media. But it's hard to compare the frequency of those against Uber and complaints against traditional taxi services, because regulators usually don't track complaints against cabbies. In Washington, D.C., they don't even count how many taxi passengers are assaulted or murdered. Uber uses a rating system as one measure of quality, and while it doesn't release the statistics publicly, driver ratings are available to passengers and vice versa.