West Virginians Say Uber's 'Gig Economy' Has Downsides
Thursday, July 14, 2022
Thousands of leaked documents shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have revealed questionable tactics deployed across the globe by ride-sharing company Uber from 2013 to 2017.
Critics of Uber say the company has deployed similar tactics at home, which ultimately have left more West Virginians without reliable transportation.
Mike Pushkin, D-Charleston, state Democratic Party chair and a cabdriver, has worked in the past to help regulate ride-sharing services in the Mountain State. He said Uber flooded the market initially when it began operating services in 2017, bringing in many new drivers from other states.
"And it's great for the customer at that point, because a ride is literally five minutes away at any time," Pushkin acknowledged. "But once they are settled into an area, the drivers disappear."
The tactics in the leaks include cozy relationships with politicians, encouraging violence with cabdrivers, and drumming up fake academic research about its economic model. Uber countered in an online statement it has hired a new CEO who was tasked with transforming how the company operates, and Uber is a different company today.
Pushkin noted he is not surprised the leaked documents revealed a company that allegedly disregarded the law.
"The news that's come out recently about Uber shouldn't be a big surprise to anyone who has followed that company for any amount of time," Pushkin asserted. "They've always been involved in those sorts of business practices."
He believes residents are now worse off when it comes to choices for transportation.
"And if you ask people in West Virginia now, they have less options now since Uber's been here," Pushkin contended.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2021, 16% of Americans reported earning money through an online gig platform, including driving for ride-hailing apps such as Uber. According to Pew, people younger than 30 and Hispanic adults are most likely to rely on gig work.
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