Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SEIU Joins Hands with Uber CEO and Tech Titans as "Gig" Workers Suffer

SEIU's Andy Stern with Honeywell CEO David Cote
We’ve seen it again and again: SEIU officials leaping into bed with CEOs to proclaim "maverick" partnerships that (you guessed it) toss workers under the bus.

Here's the latest.

SEIU’s Andy Stern, David Rolf, and Laphonza Butler are drawing fire from worker advocates for their recent deal with the CEOs of Uber, Lyft, Handy and other so-called "gig economy" companies.

The tech titans are using a classic scheme to boost their profits by ripping off workers.  How?

They misclassify their workers -- including Uber drivers and Handy maids -- as "independent contractors" rather than employees.  As such, the workers have no access to health insurance, vacation, holidays, retirement, and other benefits; no access to unemployment insurance and workers compensation; and no company contribution to Social Security and Medicare. And the workers are unprotected by most federal, state and local minimum wage laws and other labor protections. And they can’t form unions.

It's the same scam used by FedEx, trucking companies at ports, and other greedy companies.

In California, Uber drivers are suing their $62 billion company to be reclassified as employees and to collect millions of dollars in mileage reimbursement and tips, which the company has never paid to drivers. The suit could affect 160,000 workers.

SEIU officials -- rather than backing the workers -- decided to become BFFs with the CEOs of Uber, Lyft, Handy and other such corporations. Earlier this month, they co-signed a lame, milk-toast letter that fails to take these corporations to task for ripping off their workforces.

Instead, SEIU’s joint letter offers hollow platitudes and vague proclamations -- with no concrete commitments or funding from the corporations -- that are summed up in the following excerpt from the joint letter:
Everyone, regardless of employment classification, should have access to the option of an affordable safety net that supports them when they’re injured, sick, in need of professional growth, or when it’s time to retire.

Worse yet, SEIU's joint letter pointedly criticizes workers for suing their billion-dollar bosses for ripping them off. The letter states: "We believe these issues are best pursued through policy development, not litigation…" (emphasis added)

SEIU is the only union to sign the letter… which was also signed by Eli Lehrer, the President of "The R Street Institute," a right-wing think tank inspired by Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek.  By the way, the R Street Institute is reportedly pushing for legislation to make it easier for companies to classify what their workers as "independent contractors."
SEIU's David Rolf

SEIU’s lame-ass sell-out of precarious workers is what prompted worker advocates to publish a recent critique entitled "When Labor Groups and Silicon Valley Capitalists Join Forces to ‘Disrupt’ Protections for Employees" (In These Times, December 4, 2015).

The authors -- Jay Youngdahl and Darwin Bondgraham -- include a quote from Shannon Liss-Riordan, a labor attorney who represents 160,000 Uber drivers in their class-action lawsuit against the company:  
I’m concerned seeing labor groups on there. … I’m wondering whether they’re fully informed as to what they’re putting their names on.

Unfortunately, cozying up to the boss is par for the course at SEIU. 

Readers will recall similar episodes such as Andy Stern’s dirty deals with Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott; pension-slashing venture capitalist Gina Raimondo; Honeywell CEO David Cote; Andy’s billionaire patron Ron Perelman; and the anti-teacher Broad Foundation.