Heather Clancy is a contributing editor at Fortune.
Well, that didn’t take long. More than 1,000 Uber drivers are banding together in New York—the birthplace of the organized U.S. labor movement—to create an association that can represent their collective interests to the ride-sharing company’s management.
The move comes less than two weeks after Uber trumpeted a $100 million proposed settlement with disgruntled contractors in California and Massachusetts who are seeking compensation for certain expenses. Under the agreement, which many describe as a sweetheart deal for the highly valued gig economy bellwether, Uber drivers still aren’t considered employees. However, Uber did make a key concession in the proposal: It will allow drivers to create “associations” that can address collective gripes.
The New York group is called the Amalgamated Local of Livery Employees in Solidarity (aka Alles). Technically speaking, this is not a union, because the National Labor Relations Board won’t allow that. That means the group won’t officially have any control over fares. The only U.S. city where Uber and Lyft drivers have won that right is in Seattle. Instead, Alles is making “security and protection” its cause celebre, fighting against issues such as overly long work hours, according to a statement issued by the organizers. (Uber recently limited the shifts that New York City drivers can handle to 12 hours.)
How much influence will this group really have? At last count, there are an estimated 30,000 drivers in New York City, so the group represents just a small fraction. Still, Alles could provide drivers with a powerful communications tool for shaping how the general public feels about a service that has become wildly popular in certain cities.
Just ask Verizon, which faces boycotts of its wireless services even though most of the 40,000 workers who walked off the job three weeks ago represent its landline and Internet services. So even though Uber drivers can’t technically bargain over what they’re paid, they can sure make things look bad for the company. The company is actually celebrating its fifth “birthday” in New York this week. As of last September, there were more than 1 million active riders there.
One thing to remember: Uber’s proposed settlement must still be approved by a federal judge in San Francisco. Given how critical many drivers have been over the arrangement, there’s a real chance that the proposal won’t stand. Meanwhile, it’s in Uber’s interest to appear as open-minded as possible.
BITS AND BYTES
Intel cedes some mobile business. The chipmaker will cancel production for some of the processors it was selling for smartphones and tablet computers, reports The Wall Street Journal. The move is meant to underscore the company’s focus on technologies for data centers, computer memory applications, and the Internet of things. (Wall Street Journal)
Yahoo narrows auction to shortlist of 10 bidders. The list favors would-be buyers with plenty of cash at their disposal, including Verizon, reports Reuters. The Internet company added four independent directors to its board last week, and a resolution to the sale process—through which it intends to sell all or part of its core assets—is anticipated within a matter of weeks. Incidentally, CEO Marissa Mayer stands to receive a whopping $55 million if she loses her job after the sale. (Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
U.S. won’t halt Fitbit imports. The International Trade Commission has declared certain Jawbone patents invalid, which means it won’t bar imports of rival Fitbit’s products. The two are still at war over alleged trade secret theft. (Wall Street Journal, Fortune)
Is this really the creator of bitcoin? Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright, a prominent backer of the virtual currency, has approached the BBC, The Economist, and GQ magazine claiming to be the person behind the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto.” Not everyone is convinced he’s telling the truth. While interest in bitcoin has waned, the underlying blockchain technology that facilitates transactions is finding traction among financial services companies. (Fortune, New York Times)
Facebook shareholder challenges Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to issue new stock. The social network last week disclosed its intention to create a class of shares that carry no voting rights. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to dedicate a large portion of his holdings to philanthropic interests. The lawsuit claims the new stock will allow him to benefit financially, without giving up control. (Reuters)
Verizon hints at network sabotage. The telecommunications giant reported 57 incidents of vandalism across seven states, mostly in the Northeast, since 40,000 workers walked off the job on April 13. That’s far more than the six incidents that occur in “normal” operating conditions. The implication is that strikers are somehow responsible. (Fortune)
IBM: Build a blockchain in our cloud. The tech giant wants to make it easier for businesses to build applications on the blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that advocates say will reshape the way the world transacts and keeps records.
Toward that end, IBM has released a framework and new services for securely running blockchain networks in the cloud. The company looks to court firms in sectors ranging from finance to health care to government to get on board with the potentially disruptive tech, as well as to grow IBM’s cloud business. (Fortune)
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