Uber: Sued By Many Everywhere, Defended by Its Customers in Austin, Texas


Uber gets sued a lot. A very useful summary piece from Kristen V. Brown at Fusion.net. Highlights:

50 lawsuits were filed against Uber in U.S. federal court….

Lyft, was sued less than a third as often. Airbnb, the second most highly valued start-up in the U.S., was sued just five times last year……

….of the 50 or so lawsuits currently pending against Uber in federal court right now, 17 were filed by Uber drivers, 15 by taxi and livery companies, and more than a dozen by customers alleging all manners of sin, including assault, illegal robocalling and deceptive pricing. There's also suits for trademark infringement, rejected insurance claims and disability discrimination…..

The most high-profile of Uber's legal lot is a class action challenging Uber's classification of drivers as independent contractors, as Uber claims they are, rather than employees….

The same type of legal threat has led to serious changes at other on-demand start-ups. Last year, the housecleaning start-up Homejoy claimed that a similar lawsuit was the reason it shut down. And the threat of being sued inspired Instacart to offer some of its contractor workers the option of becoming employees.

….Even Facebook, when it was Uber's age and had surpassed 350 million users, had not faced anywhere near as much legal opposition….

Taking a peek at the size of Uber's mounting legal arsenal speaks to just how seriously Uber is taking the threat: at present, Uber has 27 job openings for attorneys worldwide. On LinkedIn, more than 50 people in the U.S. list in-house counsel at Uber as a current job….

If Uber is building up a legal army, it is because this is an existential war.

Indeed. I wrote last month about the hypocrisy of proggy media acting as if it's Uber's fault it needs to get more political as it is attacked in political and legal arenas.

Beleaguered as it is by suits, Uber has a good friend in its users, as see this story by Neal Pollack out of Austin, via Yahoo! After Austin tried to insist on mandatory fingerprinted background checks for all ride-hail app drivers, the citizens revolted:

This week, a nonprofit group called Ridesharing Works For Austin, an odd alliance among Uber, Lyft, unemployed musicians, and downtown bar owners formed just after the New Year, submitted a petition to the city clerk's office containing more than 65,000 signatures, demanding that the city council overturn the ordinance. They gathered those signatures in less than three weeks. Assuming that the petition passes muster—and it almost certainly will because the group triple-checked the rolls to ensure that at least 20,000 of those signatures were legitimate—the council will have to either adopt a new ordinance or put the issue up for a public election. No mayor in the history of Austin has ever received that many votes.

Why so much citizen action? Because, dammit, those services make people's lives better and more filled with possibility, for both drivers and riders, in a clear, vivid way. Once one has known their glories, the thought of seeming them restricted makes local busybody governance see highly objectionable.

But the city solons don't get it:

They still seem stunned by the outcry. As one council member said last week, "I am deeply disappointed in the perversion of the petition process essentially led by a billion-dollar company fighting fair safety regulations by disseminating false information to get signatures."

…. the companies aren't the only animating force, or even the major one, behind this initiative. They didn't have to activate their massive million-person online database. Instead, downtown bars and nightclubs circulated pages.  Petitioners walked up and down Red River and 6th Street, garnering more support than any plebiscite in the city's history. If you want to get young people to sign something, all you have to say is "they're going to ban Uber." Only an attempt to ban ramen would make them more upset.

Once the signatures are confirmed, the city council and mayor have ten days to roll back the ordinance. If they don't, there will be a special election in May, which will cost the city nearly a million dollars….

Of course, even all users don't get the whole free market thing as Pollack winds up with:

Now if only we could vote down surge pricing. 

Which would be tantamount to saying "I want there to be fewer drivers available during peak or emergency times." Baby steps, though, as these sorts of services show-not-tell the benefits of relatively unrestricted markets in services.

NEXT: Six Cleveland Officers Involved in 2012 Car Chase That Ended With 136 Shots Fired Have Been Terminated

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  1. I year for the days of yore where innovation meant you created something new and interesting, whereas today it means you successfully navigated a the toiling waters of hostile municipalities and their entrenched Union interests.

  2. yearn. Goddamnit I need to replace this keyboard.

    1. Imagine the innovation, and even derivative evolution, spheres of human life are missing because some regulation and its bureaucratic enforcers prevented its actualization. The everyday example for me, since I’m a massive car guy, is how blandly similar many cars are today, and the oceans of regulatory crap manufacturers must comply with, restricting the design and function of automobiles.

      Europe’s car market is even blander, and makes ours look like Diversity Central.

      1. As PJ O’Rourke pointed out, the government didn’t just tell car companies to build safer cars, they told them HOW to build cars, and that was the beginning of the end.

        1. I remember watching a report where some guy at Ford was talking about the difficulties of perfecting car design, or something, and he went into a tirade about how for every car you see on the roads, thousands of excellent, varied designs (in other words, ideas and concepts we’d see otherwise) die because they’re not viable “UNDER THE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK WE HAVE TO WORK WITHIN.”

          Living in Europe has given me a great deal to appreciate about the United States. When you see an American import on British roads, even the blandest shit by our standards (like an old Chevrolet Blazer), it’s positively dripping personality and uniqueness in comparison with all the generic shit I see here. That’s how fucked up the rest of the world is.

          When a 2002 Chevy Blazer is a total standout in a long queue of high-five-figure-value cars, you know you’re fucking it up somewhere, folks.

          1. British cars generally suck. German cars rock.

      2. The steel wings of bureaucracy flagellate the fuck out of creativity.

  3. We’re talking about Austin … Texas’ Kremlin on the Colorado; its Moscow on Travis.

    The city council will prevail, and the same bozos who signed the Uber petition will re-elect their progressive candidates who oppose Uber.

    1. Don’t knock the city that brought us alt-country and Austin City Limits.

      1. I fucking enjoy alt-country on the odd day to be sure.

    2. the same bozos who signed the Uber petition will re-elect their progressive candidates who oppose Uber.

      Well, better to give up Uber than vote for a *stifles vomit* RETHUGLIKKKAN. /Austin prog-tard

    3. Its Hanoi in the Hill Country; its Burma on the Balcones; its Esfahan on the Edwards Plateau…

    4. There’s Houston… oddly reason wants you to know about Planned Parenthood news, just not the Houston story where its antichoice critics get indicted: http://thelibertarianrepublic.com/ search for it…
      But Travis county (Austin) led the nation in LP candidates filing and running campaigns. Texas libertarians got a hair under 3% of the vote, which three times the rate for unverifiable national secret ballots.

  4. unemployed musicians

    So, the entire city of Austin.

  5. When stagecoaches instantly interlock the twirling singing batons of the impassioned-heart crowds you will have pierced the veil shrouding paradises of collective human submission understood so adeptly by Facebook.

    1. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook support net neutrality— until the 2×4 of “civil rights” swung back and clocked him in the forehead.

      “Who could possibly be against this?” he asks passive-aggressively. “Surprisingly, over the last year there’s been a big debate about this in India.”
      Yes, net neutrality is a big deal?and not just in India. In the US, for example, an appeals court is currently examining the legality of a new set of net-neutrality rules enacted by the Federal Communications Commission this year. But Zuckerberg almost portrays net neutrality as a first-world problem that doesn’t apply to India because having some service is better than no service.

      1. Zuckerberg can’t stand the fact that responsible network administrators block Facebook.

        1. Facebook is still a thing?

  6. Now if only we could vote down surge pricing.

    Sure, if we can vote down surge water pricing my government applies, I’m on board.

    1. WATER… board?

      *Buh-dum, tshh.*

  7. Why so much citizen action? Because, dammit, those services make people’s lives better and more filled with possibility, for both drivers and riders, in a clear, vivid way.

    I think there’s a strong sentiment among younger people for keeping control close to the ground. In addition to its superior service, using Uber feels more like a direct transaction. I actually think the “independent contractor” status makes Uber more appealing for the kind of person who dislikes corporations and corporate bureaucracy. I’d much rather field complaints about taking too big a cut than not providing healthcare.

    1. In a lot of cities, regular taxi drivers are independent contractors too. It’s difficult to handle people who are so unsupervised otherwise.

      The difference is that the typical pay tends to involve a flat fee for the day to rent the car, then the driver keeps everything past that. It completely encourages full-time hours and makes it impossible to do it as a side job part time. But they are still often independent contractors.

  8. Damn. I like boobies.

    1. Me too!

      *stands up, looks around like meerkat*

  9. Ridesharing apps are an IQ test which the majority of humans fail.

    Freedom is indeed slavery to these morons. I say let them be enslaved, and let those of us who want to be free be free. But the voluntarily enslaved would still be jealous, which is their sin for which they deserve their self-inflicted pain.

  10. Meanwhile, in France:

    Taxi drivers have blocked a major Paris road, in a protest at competition from app-based taxi services including Uber.

    The drivers, who were also protesting against unlicensed cab firms, joined a nationwide public sector strike.

    Millions of teachers, health workers and air traffic controllers are protesting against labour reforms.

    At least 20 taxi drivers were arrested for “violence, carrying weapons and starting a fire”, police said. Some had set bonfires on the road before dawn.

    1. Judging by the last 300 years of French history, “people engaged in loitering and lawlessness throughout the streets of Paris” seems like a decennial tradition at this point.

  11. Go Uber.

    Knock the bastards out.

  12. The push for extensive background checks and fingerprinting seems contradictory with the push to “ban the box” in hiring. Apparently it’s illegal to either look into your employees’ history or to not do so, depending on the commissar’s mood that day.

  13. Now if only we could vote down surge pricing.

    Pollack sounds like quite the bright light.

    Neal…boobie…you can vote it down by not using the fucking service. See how that works? They can set a price and you can, you know, choose to not pay it.

    Oh, right. You want your cake and have it wedged into your ass, too.

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