Uber whistleblower says company used ‘unlimited finance’ to silence drivers who complained

October 26, 2022, 11:40 AM UTC
Uber logo seen on taxi
The Uber Files revealed earlier this year that the company had flouted laws and engaged in immoral behavior.
Jakub Porzycki—NurPhoto/Getty Images

The whistleblower who helped leak thousands of damning files exposing alleged unlawful behaviors by Uber has demanded action from EU lawmakers, not just for Uber, but for global tech giants.

The Uber Files, which came to light in July, revealed that the company frequently flouted the law by lobbying governments around the world, in addition to duping police and exploiting violence against drivers. 

Mark MacGann, a former top lobbyist for Uber in Europe from 2015–2016, is now urging the European parliament to take action against the “undemocratic” and “disproportionate” power that big tech companies hold.

Speaking to a group of MEPs, MacGann said Uber’s actions were “borderline immoral” and that any legal disputes brought up by drivers were quashed with “unlimited finance.” 

During MacGann’s tenure, Uber spent over $90 million on lobbying and communications, while hundreds of millions were spent on expensive lawyers globally. 

“When tech companies have disproportionate financial resources to push their message, at the expense of the far less powerful workers upon whom their model is built—there is something truly undemocratic happening,” he said. 

He also added that the current legislative power held by huge tech platforms “risks shattering the social justice” MEPs had sought to defend. 

Big tech could “drown you in legal fees”

The European Parliament is currently debating proposals that protect gig-economy workers, ensuring they receive sick pay, a minimum wage, and holidays. They would also mean that the burden of proving employee status would fall to the companies and not the workers—another point made by MacGann, who emphasized the importance of this legislation. 

“The financial burden has to be on those who can afford it, which means the platform companies and not the drivers,” he said. “Companies like Uber have so much money to drown you in legal fees,” he said.

MacGann later said in a statement that he hopes his testimony will inspire and help other whistleblowers: “I have a platform, I have a voice to help out as much as I can the workers in Europe, who are trying to get their voices heard… I don’t know what the shelf life of that job is, whether it is weeks or months, so I am taking it day by day.”

Speaking separately to the group of MEPs, Uber’s director of EU public policy, Zuzana Púčiková, said the company has changed: “The Uber I know is built on strong values. Today our values are about doing the right thing… The Uber I know has robust ethics and compliance policies that all employees must comply with.”

She also said that the proposals for gig-economy workers being debated would be welcomed by the company, but cautioned “against an approach that would classify them as employees,” claiming that many Uber drivers wouldn’t want this status. 

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