Uber’s Business ‘Clouded’ By Treating Everyone Like Shit

Then-senator Kamala Harris attends a union rally with Uber and Lyft drivers in 2019. Harris’ brother-in-law is a higher-up at Uber.
Then-senator Kamala Harris attends a union rally with Uber and Lyft drivers in 2019. Harris’ brother-in-law is a higher-up at Uber.
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

Uber is having a hard time getting its side hustle of providing cabs back up and running, but having no trouble with its main business of government grift. All that and more in The Morning Shift for May 4, 2021.

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1st Gear: Please Enjoy This Story About Uber Having A Hard Time Finding People To Exploit

Who knew that if you ran an entire business treating the people who work for you like garbage, not even giving them the rights of employees, you might have a hard time getting them to come back to work? Please enjoy Reuters reporting on just such a problem for Uber:

As U.S. customers gradually hail more rides after a year of pandemic restrictions, Uber Technologies Inc’s (UBER.N) and Lyft Inc’s (LYFT.O) recovery story is clouded by driver shortages and regulatory threats to have workers reclassified as employees.

U.S. President Joe Biden campaigned on the promise of delivering benefits to gig workers and U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh last week intensified the debate, telling Reuters in an interview that “a lot of gig workers should be classified as employees.”

Shares in Uber and Lyft dropped as much as 8% and 12% respectively following Walsh’s comments, with the companies’ business dependent on low-cost flexible labor.

To say that Uber is “clouded” by the very nature of its business operations is rich.

2nd Gear: And This One About It Having No Trouble Conning The Government

The real business of Uber is not so much getting drunk people rides home from the bar so much as it is convincing investors that it’s the future of mobility, or whatever buzzwords are hot at the moment. With this in mind, please enjoy this other Reuters report “Uber, Lyft have a California playbook to fight proposed U.S. rules on workers” detailing how Uber is having no trouble keeping its grift operation going:

In Congress, Democratic lawmakers are pushing a union-supported labor bill, the PRO Act, that in part is modeled after a California law called AB5 that reclassified most gig workers as employees.

AB5, however, is no longer the law in California for ride-hail and food delivery workers, while it remains in effect for other freelancers. Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N), Lyft Inc (LYFT.O), DoorDash Inc (DASH.N) and Instacart, whose business model relies on low-cost flexible labor, mounted a $205 million campaign that overturned the law for the industry last November.

Among the tactics honed in the California fight, the gig-work companies used their apps to reach out to voters and drivers through messages, emails, mailed leaflets, billboards, radio and online ads. They also urged workers on their platforms to speak out against AB5.

The companies threatened an end to ubiquitous food-delivery and ride-hail services many consumers have gotten used to during the pandemic if drivers were classified employees.

VP Kamala Harris is tied to Uber by family, and it will be interesting to see how the whole administration sides with those who voted it in or those who pay for big-money political campaigns.

3rd Gear: Ford And BMW Investing Some Pocket Change In Solid State

Are solid-state batteries the next big thing for electric cars? Ford and BMW are willing to bet at least, well, not a lot of money on it, per Reuters:

Ford Motor Co (F.N) and BMW AG (BMWG.DE) are leading a $130 million funding round in a solid-state battery startup, Solid Power, as carmakers push to lower the cost of electric vehicles by investing in the development of affordable but powerful rechargeable batteries, the companies said on Monday.

The Series B investment round, which includes venture capital firm Volta Energy Technologies, allows Solid Power to expand in-house manufacturing capabilities and positions the battery maker to eventually supply future EVs, possibly by the end of the decade according to BMW battery cell technology chief Peter Lamp. Solid Power declined to say at what level the funding round values the company.

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It’s probably safer to be a follower and not a leader in battery tech, but still. You’d think there’d be an investment figure with a “b” at the beginning, not an “m.”

4th Gear: Genesis Will Try To Do What Lexus Could Not

Remember when Lexus made it to Europe and overtook all of the established luxury automakers there? No? Whatever! Genesis is giving it a try, as Reuters reports:

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) said on Tuesday it will launch its premium brand Genesis in Europe this summer, debuting its flagship sedan and sports utility vehicle (SUV) in one of the world’s fastest growing electric vehicle markets.

Genesis, which launched as Hyundai’s standalone luxury division in 2015 to compete with premium brands like BMW (BMWG.DE), Mercedes and Lexus, said it will sell both conventional and electric models in the region.

“The Electrified G80 will be the first all-electric Genesis to arrive in Europe. A further two battery electric cars will follow, providing European customers with a choice of three Genesis zero-emission cars within the first year,” Genesis Motor Europe said in a statement.

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You never know what cars Europeans are going to like. They’re usually total nationalist snobs, but they also bought the very ugliest Ssangyongs. Hard to call how this will do.

5th Gear: EV Charging Is A Strange Business

Bloomberg has a good report on the electric car charging landscape here in the United States not from the perspective of how hard it is to charge an EV from a user standpoint, but how things are going from a business standpoint. Making money, as it appears, is not going to be easy. From Bloomberg:

Fueling cars and trucks has always been a low-margin business, with gasoline stations making much of their money from selling snacks, coffee and cigarettes. The business is even tougher when it comes to EVs. Unless they live in dense cities like New York or San Francisco, drivers do the vast majority of charging at home — their garage is their gas station. They use public chargers infrequently, with most vehicles offering more than enough range to complete daily errands without a topoff. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 80 percent of EV charging happens at home.

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Some businesses are trying to come at the problem sideways, as Bloomberg lays out:

ChargePoint sells stations and offers various degrees of operational support, but doesn’t get paid from the charging itself. A typical client might be a Silicon Valley company that offers its employees free charging at work as a perk. If a particular station gets little use, ChargePoint still gets paid.

“I wouldn’t want a driver as a customer, because I think I’d starve to death,” said Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint’s CEO, in an interview. “There’s not a lot of money in electricity.”

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This is a big transitional moment in tech, so it’ll be interesting to see what comes out the other side as the standard.

Reverse: Nothing As Radical As Moving Freely Wherever You Want To Go

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Neutral: How Are You?

I just bought a new part for the 73 Peugeot I’m fixing up and now am reading varying reports disagreeing about whether or not it qualifies as a “death stem.” I will be assuming the reports that say I’m safe are correct, and the ones that say I’ll die are wrong.

DISCUSSION

By
Richard Dawson's Ghost

I like the concept of Uber and Lyft. The idea of crowd sharing transportation is a good one, and something that shouldn’t absolutely continue.

But it shouldn’t continue on the backs of the people doing the work. Far too much money is taken by Uber for offering virtually nothing to it’s driver. Uber needs to compensate adequately.

I’d love to see a competitor to Uber and Lyft built as an employee cooperative with profit sharing based on work load.