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Uber says its ride-sharing app allows its drivers to be their own bosses; writer Steven Hill says Uber is disrupting the much-loathed taxi industry by shifting costs to its drivers and flouting regulations. Part one of two-part series.Hill's fascinating new book is Raw Deal: How the Uber Economy and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers.
In the second part of this series, we will talk about Airbnb and its competitors. In this episode, we focus on Airbnb and Lyft, which use smartphone apps to connect riders with drivers, and collect money online.
As the Dead Kennedys' song "California Uber Alles" opens the show, Hill says he isn't sure where the Uber name originated. He describes Uber CEO Travis Kalanick as beyond egotistical, bragging about his sex appeal and the "boober" factor. The firm has evaded taxes, labor laws and other regulations, and retaliates against its critics, such as Sarah Lacy, editor of Pando.com
We discuss the conflicts with taxi drivers in many cities around the world, and disgruntled drivers who have seen their rates cut twice, even as Uber increases its take with high commissions and "safety" surcharges they say pay for background checks on drivers. And Hill notes that David Plouffe, from Obama's campaign team, is now working for Uber; in Seattle, Uber is pitting its appeal against union cab drivers in a struggle that may splinter the Democratic party.