Feed aggregator

USA: The assault on unions is hurting all workers

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: NewsWeek
Categories: Labor News

What's At Stake Is ILWU's Commitment To Labor Solidarity

Current News - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 16:23

What's At Stake Is ILWU's Commitment To Labor Solidarity
http://www.joc.com/whats-stake-ilwus-commitment-labor-solidarity_2000052...
The Journal of Commerce has consistently represented the shipowners' and stevedoring companies' viewpoint - against the maritime unions. This time, in your editorial ''A Winning Approach'' (May 15, Page 7), the old company themes of ''responsibility'' and ''productivity'' have been given an air of bipartisanship by cajoling a couple of newly elected union officials from Los Angeles into joining your chorus.

Apparently, the JOC is pushing the bogus argument that if longshore workers in Los Angeles/Long Beach, the nation's largest port complex, reject ''wildcat strikes over social-justice issues,'' then they will be rewarded with increased growth.Hogwash! There is no quid pro quo in this false equation. Los Angeles has continued to grow and probably will continue to grow because of its immense market; its geographic proximity to Asian ports; its rail and fast road links; and its vast waterfront and nearby acreage for container facilities.

However, what is instructive here is the JOC's aggressive anti-International Longshore and Warehouse Union stance in prodding employers to exploit ''this new attitude'' and then challenging these ILWU locals that ''changing more than 60 years of adversarial tension will not be easy.''

The new ''PMA-cooperative'' Los Angeles leadership is praised while Oakland longshore workers are crucified for daring to take action to achieve working conditions already practiced in other West Coast ports. This is nothing less than a fight for the heart and soul of the ILWU.

The ILWU's rich and proud 66-year history, going back to the 1934 West Coast maritime strike, is one of using its power to forge a unity of maritime unions in the struggle against the shipowners.

The ILWU's power has been used to demonstrate international labor solidarity not only with oppressed workers under the gun of the military dictatorships in Chile and El Salvador and apartheid South Africa, but also with the Farmworkers Union in California and more recently with the Liverpool, England, dockworkers, World Trade Organization protesters in Seattle and black death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Perhaps one of the more controversial stands was last year's coast shutdown for Jamal, a political prisoner framed for his scathing exposes of Philadelphia police brutality, corruption and racism. It was, after all, the police murder of six workers in the 1934 strike that outraged the public and galvanized support behind the striking workers and led to their victory. Yet police brutality, corruption and racism exist today in Los Angeles, as is evident in the Ramparts police station scandal.

Trade unions have a right and a moral responsibility to express themselves on the critical issues of our times. To remain silent would be criminally complicit, which is why the Bill of Rights must not be surrendered at the container terminal gate.

The ILWU's principled record, for the most part, stands out because those who built the union had a working-class perspective which recognized that racism, police brutality, war and unemployment do affect the ability of labor to organize. Had labor unions used their power to stop the U.S. imperialist war in Vietnam, millions of lives would have been saved.

The big-business-controlled U.S. government recognizes the power of the labor movement. That's why laws like Taft-Hartley have been imposed which shackle a trade union's right to organize by banning communists from holding union office and outlawing sympathy strikes. Fortunately, the ILWU was able to beat the anti-communist restriction at the Supreme Court and circumvent the ban on solidarity actions.

The shameless hypocrisy of the press, when it comes to labor actions, stands exposed for all to see.

When the struggle of the reactionary Polish trade union Solidarnosc moved from strictly economic demands to the more overtly political general strike to topple the Stalinist government, the U.S. press heaped accolades on that union.

But when the ILWU and other unions want to protest the exploitative, capitalist policies of the WTO, the news media, including the JOC, seem to be saying, ''Not in my back container yard!''

What is at stake here is the ILWU's historic commitment to labor solidarity encapsulated in the 100-year-old syndicalist slogan, ''An injury to one is an injury to all.'' This slogan was born out of a struggle against the narrow-minded, elitist craft or business unionism, what might be called ''yuppie unionism'' today.

These labor aristocrats listened to the bosses' appeals to the ''spirit of cooperation'' and echoed it to the workers, disarming them. Craft unions lost out because they couldn't defend workers against the inevitable employer attacks in a changing industrial world. Industrial unions like the ILWU survived because they were better able to organize a broader working-class unity.

Similarly, the rank and file longshore workers in Los Angeles will stick to the ILWU's tried and true principles as they did so valiantly in the solidarity action in support of the Australian wharfies. It's simply a question of survival in today's increasingly globalized economy.

Finally, because of its militant history, the ILWU has often attracted college-educated youth, some of whom have graduated Stanford and Cal. However, unlike the LA officials mentioned in your editorial, working-class modesty didn't necessitate them parading around their college credentials.

JACK HEYMAN

Oakland, Calif.

A Winning Approach In ILWU LA Officials
A Winning Approach
http://www.labournet.net/docks2/0005/winning1.htm

Editorial
Journal Of Commerce
15 May 2000

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union locals in Los Angeles-Long Beach elected new officers recently, and importers and exporters should take note of what they intend to do.

The officers of Local 13, the general longshore division, and Local 63, the marine clerks’ division, after only a month on the job, offered waterfront employers an innovative plan to reduce port congestion during the upcoming peak shipping season.

The new officers want their locals to play an important role in improving productivity at the nation’s largest port complex. They also intend to put an end to the practice of calling wildcat strikes over social-justice issues that have nothing to do with working conditions at West Coast ports. Employers should take note of this new attitude and should attempt to form a closer working relationship with these ILWU locals.

Changing more than 60 years of adversarial tension will not be easy. There will be bumps in the long road ahead. And this initiative covers only Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Indeed, while the ILWU leadership in Southern California was developing a policy of cooperation, ILWU crane operators in Oakland, 400 miles to the north, were engaging in slowdowns. They were trying to force employers to grant them the same type of costly side deals that crane operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach and Seattle have with their local employers.

Nevertheless, the ILWU is a coastwide labor organization that grants a significant amount of autonomy to its locals. If the new officers of Locals 13 and 63 have a plan to improve productivity and reduce congestion in Southern California, employers should take a close look at it. Dockworkers see first-hand each day what causes congestion at marine terminals. Their views on how to reduce congestion and improve productivity can be valuable.

The ILWU plan addresses one of the main problems faced by busy marine terminals – container dwell time. Imported containers often sit for days at the terminals before they are trucked to local warehouses. Export loads and empties likewise spend too much time on the terminals.

Dwell time reduces productivity because longshoremen must sift through piles of containers to pull out the boxes that are ready to move to their destination.

The ILWU leadership is proposing to work with waterfront employers, the ports and the cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach to locate off-dock sites that can be used to store containers until they are ready. The sites would be secured, and kept open 24 hours a day. This would allow the containers to be trucked during off-hours, when freeways are not congested.

To be sure, there’s something in the proposal for the dockworkers’ union, too. Something that’s important to any union: jobs. ILWU drivers would be used to truck the containers to and from the off-dock sites.

But here, too, much thought has gone into the plan. Terminals would be expected to set up special expedited gates so ILWU drivers could get four or five turns a day, thus justifying the high pay they would receive compared to the owner-operators who do most of the harbor hauling today.

While this plan would require cooperation between employers and the ILWU locals, the new leadership is also proposing to take unilateral action in another important area, the practice of calling work stoppages to press for social justice around the world.

The ILWU shut down West Coast ports at the end of November in solidarity with demonstrators at the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle. In the past, its members have boycotted shipments from South Africa to protest apartheid, and grapes from California to express solidarity with the United Farm Workers. The list goes on and on.

The leaders of Locals 13 and 63 have not lost their social conscience, nor do they intend to turn their backs on the principles upon which the ILWU was founded. However, the officers, many of whom are college-educated, are aware of the important role Los Angeles-Long Beach plays in moving about one-third of the nation’s containerized imports and exports in a just-in-time environment.

The local economies in the Northeast, South and Midwest depend upon this busy port complex just as much as the Western states do. “Commerce has changed. We have a responsibility to that cargo,” said Local 13 President Mike Mitre.

The leaders are sending a clear message to importers and exporters throughout the Pacific Rim that port productivity is a top priority to them. They are also rightly telling the members of their locals that improved productivity is critical to them, too. It means more cargo, and more cargo means more work.

This is the kind of approach that can lead to success for shippers, carriers and waterfront labor alike. Everyone can win.

Tags: ilwuPMAContract
Categories: Labor News

Freight train derails in Hazelwood; no injuries as 11 to 13 cars topple

Current News - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 10:58

Freight train derails in Hazelwood; no injuries as 11 to 13 cars topple
http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2015/05/14/Freight-train-derails-...
May 14, 2015 11:50 AM

A police officer stands on the railroad tracks in Hazelwood where a freight train derailed this morning near Irvine Street.

Will Philadelphia train derailment spur renewed calls for rail safety?

Investigators: Train in Philadelphia crash clocked at over 100 mph
Oil train derailments: Inspectors looking for track defects

By Jon Schmitz and Andrew Goldstein / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Eleven to 13 cars of a long freight train derailed this morning in Hazelwood, Allegheny County and Pittsburgh officials said.

The incident was reported about 10 a.m. on a curve in the tracks along Irvine Street, officials said. The road was closed to southbound traffic for a while after the derailment, but has reopened.

John Poister, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, said there were no injuries and the derailed cars were empty.

Some of the cars were on their sides, and their wheel sets separated from the car bodies. Eleven cars appeared to be off the tracks but city operations director Guy Costa said railroad officials told him 13 cars derailed. They told him the train was traveling at 10 mph.

Allegheny Valley Railroad confirmed the derailed train belonged to the company but had no further comment.

The derailed part of the train, immediately behind its five locomotives, included mostly covered and open hopper cars. The train also was pulling dozens of tanker cars, but none of them derailed. It was not immediately clear what the tankers were hauling.

A man who lives on Irvine Street about 100 yards from the derailment said he heard the usual banging noises that trains in the area make, but then “I heard the engines slam down [their power] real quick and I knew something was going on.”

The man, who would not give his name, said he frequently sees trains hauling crude oil, corrosive acid, chlorine and diesel fuel on the Allegheny Valley tracks.

”We’re just lucky that’s not what got pulled off the rails“ today, he said.

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com; Andrew Goldstein: agoldstein@post-gazette.com.

Tags: railroad accident
Categories: Labor News

Germany: Record year for strikes

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Deutsche Welle
Categories: Labor News

Building a Stewards Council

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 13:27
Paul KrehbielLabor NotesMay 13, 2015View the original piece

Want a stronger union at work? Consider building a stewards council.

With only five stewards for 1,700 workers, demoralization was high at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Click here to read more at Labor Notes.

 

Issues: Labor Movement
Categories: Labor News, Unions

legal Brief Social Media access By Employers

IBU - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 11:08
.
Categories: Unions

CRR News Letter 1

IBU - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 11:07
.
Categories: Unions

APWU Members Fired Up for National Day of Action, May 14 "I Stand With Postal Workers"

Current News - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 09:49

APWU Members Fired Up for National Day of Action, May 14 "I Stand With Postal Workers"
http://www.apwu.org/…/apwu-members-fired-national-day-actio…
WEB NEWS ARTICLE #: 095-2015
05/08/2015 - APWU members across the country are fired up for the National Day of Action on May 14, just one week before the Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire.
More than 100 locals scheduled events at postal facilities in 85 cities across 33 states and Puerto Rico, organized around the theme, “I Stand with Postal Workers.” Actions range from rallies to press conferences to getting postcards signed outside post offices.
Click here to find an event near you.
To help spread the word, APWU created a Facebook National Day of Action event. Clickhere to invite friends, family and colleagues. Be sure to use the hashtag ‪#‎0514Actionwhen‬ posting!
“We are asking locals to reach out to APWU members, our sister postal unions, and other allies to stand with us at post offices on May 14 as we demonstrate support for Good Postal Service! Good Jobs! Good Contract!” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein.
"The next day, we will begin the final push of intense negotiations – around the clock, if necessary – so it’s important that we have a strong showing," he added. "We can only win a good contract if APWU members and our families, friends and allies are actively engaged. So let’s build momentum!"
Click here for a flyer suitable for distribution to allies, friends, neighbors and other potential supporters.
It’s not too late to plan an action in your city or town! Click here for a flyer you can customize to announce the details of your event.

Cotati
Location: Cotati Post Office
Address: 502 E Cotati Ave.
Time: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Contact: David E. Swaney; (707) 762-0970; real1291@sbcglobal.net
Los Angeles
Location: U.S. Post Office at Macy's Downtown LA
Address: 750 West 7 Street
Time: 10 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Contact: Michael Evans; (714) 325-7149; calstateme@att.net
Roy Dumas; (323) 770-2099
Oakland
Location: Oakland P&DC
Address: 1675 7 Street
Time: 2 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Contact: (510) 290-1627
Petaluma
Location: Petaluma Main
Address: 120 Fourth Street
Time: 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Contact: David E. Swaney; (707) 762-0970; real1291@sbcglobal.net
Sacramento
Location: Sacramento P&DC
Address: 3775 Industrial Boulevard West
Time: 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Contact: Mike Remmen; (916) 806-2965; apwu66vicepres@att.net
San Diego
Location: Margaret L. Sellers P&DC
Address: 11251 Rancho Carmel Drive
Time: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Contact: Tom Wood; tomwoodunion1@yahoo.com
San Francisco
Location: Fox Plaza
Address: 1390 Market Street
Time: 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Contact: Geoffray Dumaguit; gdumaguit@apwusf.org
San Jose
Location: San Jose P&DC
Address: 1750 Lundy Avenue
Time: 2:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Contact: Caroline Frederico; (719) 251-9342; betancurcf@gmail.com
Santa Rosa
Location: Point Reyes Station
Address: 11260 Highway 1
Time: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Contact: David E. Swaney; (707) 762-0970; real1291@sbcglobal.net
Ukiah
Location: Ukiah Annex
Address: 671 S Orchard Ave.
Time: 8:30 a.m - 11:30 a.m.
Contact: David E. Swaney; (707) 762-0970; real1291@sbcglobal.net
Walnut Creek
Location: Main Post Office
Address: 2070 N. Broadway
Time: 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Contact: Al Ross or Lisa Ortega; (925) 937-8900; apwual@aol.com; ebal47vp@gmail.com
CO

Tags: APWUNational Day of Action
Categories: Labor News

BART union SEIU 1021 knocked for campaigning at workday meetings

Current News - Wed, 05/13/2015 - 08:18

BART union SEIU 1021 knocked for campaigning at workday meetings
http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/BART-union-knocked-for-campaignin...
By John Wildermuth Published 3:21 pm, Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Union workers for BART improperly campaigned for state Senate candidate Susan Bonilla during workday meetings last month at maintenance facilities in the East Bay, a preliminary investigation by the transit agency has found.
The investigation came in response to complaints Monday by Steve Glazer, who is running against Bonilla in Tuesday’s all-Democrat special election for the state Senate district that includes parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Glazer’s complaint “was the first we heard of any of this,” said James Allison, a BART spokesman. “We had our attorneys look into it and by 6 p.m. had a preliminary finding.”
Based on interviews with some of the people involved, the workers apparently violated the agency’s rules against workplace political activity at break room meetings on April 29 and 30, the report found.
At a Monday campaign event, Glazer, the mayor of Orinda, brought out poster-size photographs of workers from the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 posing with Bonilla campaign signs inside BART maintenance facilities.
While BART officials had been told in advance of the union meetings, they were not told what the meetings would involve, Allison said.
Although the investigation is continuing, BART officials will remind workers of the ban on workplace political activity “and provide notice that the failure to comply with this provision in the future may result in disciplinary action,” the report stated.
Those meetings in the BART break rooms involve “members talking to members on a wide variety of topics,” which can include politics, said Pete Castelli, executive director of Local 1021. He said union officials would look into the complaint and “make sure everyone knows the rules” on political activity at work.
Political campaigning is allowed on BART platforms, although workers are not allowed to wear their uniforms or imply any endorsement by the transit agency, Allison said.
For Glazer, the incident was an opportunity to remind voters in the suburban Seventh State Senate District of his active opposition to the 2013 BART strikes and his call for a statewide ban on walkouts by transit workers. Bonilla, a Concord assemblywoman with strong support from labor, opposes a ban on BART strikes.
John Wildermuth is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: jwildermuth@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @jfwildermuth

Tags: BARTGlazerSEIU1021union busting
Categories: Labor News

USA: AFL-CIO Pres Trumka: Why labor unions oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: PBS
Categories: Labor News

Global: Workers From Around the World Gathered in Geneva to Support the Chrysotile Asbestos Ban

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The International Trade Union Movement for Chrysotile
Categories: Labor News

Iceland: National strike action snowballs - 40% of population walks

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Ice News
Categories: Labor News

Turkey: Country commemorates the first anniversary of its deadliest mining accident in Soma

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Hurriyet
Categories: Labor News

Egypt: Workers right to strike outlawed in Egypt

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Al-Monitor
Categories: Labor News

USA: Trans-Pacific Partnership Fast Track Fails to Advance in Senate

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 05/12/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: AFL-CIO
Categories: Labor News

Anti-Labor Senate candidate Glazer says unions campaign illegally at BART

Current News - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 21:33

Anti-Labor Senate candidate Glazer says unions campaign illegally at BART
http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Senate-candidate-Glazer-says-unio...
By Carla Marinucci Updated 6:06 pm, Monday, May 11, 2015

BART management said Monday it will investigate charges that union employees engaged in illegal political campaigning on behalf of state Senate candidate Susan Bonilla at agency facilities during work hours, a charge leveled by her Democratic opponent, Steve Glazer.
“Glazer’s allegations are of concern to us. ... The legal department and the office of the general manager will both be looking into it,” BART spokesman Jim Allison said. “We weren’t aware of what he said took place — and we wouldn’t condone improper activity.”
BART’s statement came just hours after Glazer, Bonilla’s opponent in the contentious Senate Seventh District special election in the East Bay, made the allegations against members of the Service Employees International Union at a press conference at BART headquarters. He displayed poster-size photographs of groups of BART employees from SEIU Local 1021 posing with Bonilla campaign signs inside what he said were the transit agency facilities in Concord, Hayward and Richmond.
Glazer is the Orinda mayor who has publicly called for an end to BART employees’ right to strike and has been critical of the system’s unions and management.
“For the past few weeks, BART has endured serious maintenance problems throughout the entire system, causing great havoc to hundreds of thousands,” Glazer said. “But during those past few weeks, it hasn’t stopped the BART workers and management from engaging in campaign activities against me in my Senate race.”
Allison confirmed the photos appear to be taken inside BART’s maintenance yards. If the investigation confirms that, he said, it would be a violation of BART’s code of conduct, which specifically states that “employees shall not engaged in political activity during work hours while on district premises, or while in uniform.”
“Most of the people in there were union members on their break,’’ said Pete Castelli, executive director of SEIU 1021, who said the activities were nothing more than “member communication.”
“It’s very typical in break rooms, people are allowed to talk about what they want ... there’s no prohibition,” Castelli said. “We’re not sure what the big deal is, other than Glazer trying to make hay out of it.”
The charges are the latest in what has been a nasty runoff to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Mark DeSaulnier, who was elected to Congress in November. The contest — to be decided May 19 — pits Bonilla, a favorite of labor, against Glazer, a favorite of business community, with both sides getting millions of dollars in help from independent expenditures.
Glazer said he was not calling Bonilla’s actions into question, but only those of the union members are on the job in taxpayer-funded facilities.
In response, Bonilla issued a statement Monday charging Glazer with using BART platforms and BART property “for electioneering” and “self-advertising” and said both he and the unions “should immediately stop using BART property for electioneering.”
But political candidates are allowed to campaign on BART premises with permits, Allison said, as a way of “accommodating First Amendments rights.” Allison confirmed that Glazer applied for and received the necessary permits to campaign at the transit stations.
Meanwhile, the investigation, he said, is unlikely to be concluded before the May 19 election.
Carla Marinucci is the San Francisco Chronicle senior political writer. E-mail: cmarinucci@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @cmarinucci

Tags: BARTGlazer
Categories: Labor News

Palestine: One year on, thousands of civil servants in Gaza still working without pay

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The National
Categories: Labor News

PSR Fleet Memo for May 9 2015

IBU - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 08:35
.
Categories: Unions

An App That Helps Drivers Earn the Most From Their Trips

Current News - Sat, 05/09/2015 - 21:55

An App That Helps Drivers Earn the Most From Their Trips
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/technology/a-dashboard-management-cons...
By NATASHA SINGER and MIKE ISAACMAY 9, 2015

Carlos Silva, a driver for ride-hailing services in the San Francisco area, said, “Since I started using Sherpa, with a tap I can see detailed information on how I am doing, how much I’m making.” CreditCarlos Chavarra for The New York Times

When Steve Smith began driving for Uber and Lyft several months ago, he concentrated on picking up passengers near his Walnut Creek neighborhood in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“At first I thought I was earning money,” says Mr. Smith, who also works in the oil industry.

But then he signed up for SherpaShare, a free analytics site that helps ride-hailing drivers calculate their real incomes. He discovered that his net pay was much lower than the $20 an hour he had estimated.

“I was probably making $10 an hour in Walnut Creek, if I took into account my total travel time,” Mr. Smith says.

Lyft and Uber market themselves as frictionless routes to high-paying work. Lyft’s application page entices would-be drivers with the promise “Make up to $35/hr driving with Lyft.” Uber has asserted that the median yearly income for drivers with UberX, the company’s lowest-priced service, is “more than $90,000” in New York and “more than $74,000” in San Francisco.

Continue reading the main story
RELATED COVERAGE

• Uber Fund-Raising Points to $50 Billion ValuationMAY 9, 2015
•Uber Joins the Bidding for Here, Nokia’s Digital Mapping ServiceMAY 7, 2015
But those rosy outlooks tend to refer to the higher end of their driver pay scales and elide details like the cost of gas, car payments, insurance, depreciation and self-employment taxes. With SherpaShare, drivers can input their daily incomes, number of fares, working hours, expenses and mileage to obtain not only more concrete information on their net pay, but also insights into the driving patterns that are most profitable for them.

Photo

The SherpaShare app, left, tracks income from ride companies.CreditCarlos Chavarra for The New York Times
In Mr. Smith’s case, he understood after examining his SherpaShare charts that Walnut Creek, though convenient, was his least profitable terrain.

“I realized I was spending a lot of time waiting, and I could earn a lot more by going to another area,” he says. “As soon as I was working in Oakland and Berkeley, I was making $20 to $25 an hour — and San Francisco added another $10 an hour.”

Irregular Work

Over the last five years, with the advent of the sharing economy, hundreds of thousands of people have rented out their homes, their cars, their parking spaces or themselves for short-term contract work through virtual marketplaces. The sites and apps act as brokers, taking commissions on the transactions. The companies typically treat the people who find gigs through their platforms as independent contractors who are not entitled to standard employee benefits and may be fired at will. (Some drivers in California are suing Lyft and Uber contending that their drivers should be classified as employees.)

Venture capitalists see big opportunities in the business model. Uber has raised about $6 billion in venture financing and is valued at more than $40 billion; Lyft is valued at $3 billion. Investors see the potential for these kinds of companies to take on sectors like mail and courier services and grocery and meal delivery services now dominated by Amazon and GrubHub.

The novice freelancers attracted to this work often overestimate their potential income, employment researchers say. Contingent workers may also be unprepared for virtual labor marketplaces that frequently change their compensation rates and vary the incentives they use to encourage people to work certain schedules.

Continue reading the main story
“One of the things that I think that workers, young and old, value is having some certainty and control over both hours and earnings,” says Thomas Kochan, a professor of work and employment research and engineering systems at the MIT Sloan School of Management who is teaching an online course this semester on the future of work. “When you take that away,” he says, “you create enormous uncertainty and stress.”

Over the last year, start-ups like Peers, an organization for independent contractors; Even, an app intended to help create a steady income flowfrom workers’ irregular paychecks; and SherpaShare have sprung up to help people navigate the financial complexities of so-called gig work.

“We realized the biggest challenge was that drivers didn’t understand how much they needed to pay for fuel, car maintenance, depreciation and tax,” Ryder Pearce, a co-founder of SherpaShare, said recently at the company’s San Francisco office.

Although ride-hailing apps compensate drivers for “trip hours,” the distance and time they drive with passengers in their cars, SherpaShare has found that its users typically spend around half their on-call time waiting for the next fare or driving to a fare, uncompensated minutes that substantially lower their net hourly pay.

Photo

Ryder Pearce, the co-founder of SherpaShare.CreditAlexis Cuarezma for The New York Times
“So if you earned $20 to $25 an hour, you might actually be making $10,” Mr. Pearce says.

He and his co-founder, Jianming Zhou, met at an event for start-up entrepreneurs in early 2014. They each had experience in travel and transit — Mr. Pearce as an urban planner who had developed bicycle paths and street zones for pedestrians in New York City and Mr. Zhou as a software engineer at location-based start-ups and the founder of a travel-planning site.

SherpaShare’s founders say their service now has more than 10,000 active users including drivers who work for Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, and for food delivery services including Postmates, Fluc and DoorDash. About two-thirds of those users work for more than one service, Mr. Zhou says.

“We want to become a financial layer for those services,” he says. “We are giving the picks and shovels to these drivers who haven’t had any support.”

To understand the challenges drivers face and the financial analysis that could help them, Mr. Pearce and Mr. Zhou occasionally drive for Lyft and Uber. This year, the two produced a short video for drivers explaining how they could use their SherpaShare data to complete their tax forms. For now, SherpaShare is free for individual drivers, but the start-up, based in Menlo Park, Calif., plans eventually to charge for additional services.

The site collates the income reports drivers receive from ride-sharing apps — along with expenses like gas — and displays the data in pie charts and graphs, enabling people to compare their gross and net weekly pay or their Lyft income to their Uber income. Users can also compare their daily average income and average number of trips to the daily driver averages in their own city.

Running the Numbers

Freelance driving has proved to be a popular occupation. By the end of 2014 in the United States, more than 160,000 people, slightly more than Amazon employs worldwide, worked as Uber drivers.

“The flexibility really jumps out,” David Plouffe, Uber’s senior vice president for policy and strategy, said in an interview early this year. “There’s really nothing like it in our economy where a person has complete control over their work hours.”

Drivers who find gigs through virtual labor marketplaces, however, often have control over little else. Uber and Lyft, for instance, each set the rules and rates for drivers who use their apps and typically take a 20 percent commission on fares. The apps also offer complex incentives to drivers — with reduced fare pricing during certain promotions, increased fares for certain neighborhoods during peak commuting hours and bonuses for people willing to drive for 30 hours a week or more.

Photo

Jianming Zhou, the other co-founder of SherpaShare, met Mr. Pierce in early 2014. Today, their company has more than 10,000 active users including drivers who work for Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, and for food delivery services including Postmates, Fluc and DoorDash.CreditAlexis Cuarezma for The New York Times
A spokeswoman from Lyft says the company has given its drivers tools to put them “in control of creating a schedule that works best for them.” Those tools include weekly earnings forecasts and real-time earnings updates. At Uber, drivers can sort their earnings over different time frames — a day, week, month or year — and examine their entire trip history, a spokeswoman for that service says.

Even so, some drivers say that, when they do the math, they have found that they earned less than they had expected.

Niki Payne is a writer and social media consultant in Los Angeles. A few of her clients occasionally pay late, she says, and she wanted to build up a financial buffer, so she recently started driving with Lyft. When she heard a few weeks ago that Uber was offering a $500 bonus to attract drivers from competing services, she signed up to drive with Uber, too.

During the week of April 13, she made 22 trips for Lyft over the course of 35 hours and ended up making $311.40 in tips and fares after Lyft took its commission, she says. During the week of April 20, she tried to earn more by making herself available to drive for about 41 hours so she could qualify for Lyft’s 10 percent bonus. Although she made a little more, $321.66 after the Lyft fee, her pay actually declined to about $7.85 an hour from about $8.90. And that was before she factored in taxes or her weekly extra gas cost of about $50. The minimum wage in California is $9 per hour; but it applies to company employees, not independent contractors.

In the past, Uber and Lyft experimented with hourly earnings guaranteesfor drivers who met certain conditions, such as accepting 90 percent of ride requests and completing at least one trip an hour, in Uber’s case. Some drivers, however, say they did not like that incentive because it made it nearly impossible for them to work for multiple services at once.

Ms. Payne said that she welcomed the extra income and intended to keep driving, but that she had decided to stop chasing the extended-hour bonuses.

“I’ve been keeping track of all of this to see if it’s worth it for me,” says Ms. Payne, who does not use SherpaShare and manually records her driver earnings in spreadsheets. “When I put in much more effort, I didn’t make much more money.”

Uber driver data has shown a similar pattern. UberX drivers who worked 16 to 34 hours a week typically made $18.08 an hour, while those who worked more than 50 hours a week typically made $17.13 an hour, according to a company-financed study that paid drivers to participate.

Drivers who use SherpaShare say they find it easier to predict their incomes and to compare the companies’ public statements on driver pay with their own earnings.

“If you drive for multiple platforms as I do, it’s difficult to keep track of your earnings and related information like the number of rides I’ve completed per company,” says Carlos Silva, who has been driving for ride-hailing services in the San Francisco area for more than a year. “Since I started using Sherpa, with a tap I can see detailed information on how I am doing, how much I’m making.”

This month, SherpaShare introduced a mobile app that calculates total mileage and driving time, from the moment drivers first leave home to pick up a passenger to the moment they turn off their ride-hailing apps for the day.

Once the company can automatically factor in idle time, Mr. Zhou says, drivers may discover that their true hourly pay is lower. But at least they will be able to make data-based choices about their future gig work.

Correction: May 9, 2015
An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misspelled the surname of a co-founder of SherpaShare. He is Ryder Pearce, not Pierce.

Tags: Driversapp
Categories: Labor News

Pages

Subscribe to Transport Workers Solidarity Committee aggregator