March 1, 2024

In cities across the country, what used to be an issue reserved only for the bureaucrats has moved the front lines as one of the most contentious battles raging in local politics today. While for years taxi regulation and enforcement have avoided the spotlight of public opinion, a new self-described “ride sharing” service has brought the subject into the light.
While the delineation has become an important issue in its regulation, most rational observers are able to see that Uber is a taxi service, where customers use an app to schedule pick-ups rather than calling a phone number. Uber is arguing that this distinction (among a few others) is enough that the service should be exempted from the regulations surrounding taxi services.
It is no surprise that the owners of existing taxi firms opposed the entry of Uber into the marketplace with none of the same regulations. The debate has often been reduced in the media (with the help of Uber’s superb propaganda machine) by painting the issue as a hip young millennial disruptor v. the old bureaucrats who are the pawns in the taxi companies game of corporate greed. However, this simple binary obscures Uber’s own corporate greed and exploitative behaviors, and millennials should not exempt them from their scorn just because the company is run by young tech developers rather than the archetypal corporate fat cats.
What is missing from this debate is the middle ground. Uber does not argue for full scale deregulation of municipal taxi systems; instead, they seek a special exemption.While Uber and its proponents often speak of Uber’s “disruption,” it is important to keep in mind that Uber is providing the same service that has been provided for years by taxi companies. Having someone else drive you in their car for a fee is nothing new or “disruptive.” While the method of delivery, Uber’s app, is new and should be awarded in the marketplace, it should not be exempt from the same regulations by which every other taxi service is forced to abide. Certainly many cities have draconian regulations; however, granting Uber special treatment is not the egalitarian way to solve this problem.
Furthermore, this debate has pushed other instances of Uber’s corporate malfeasance out of the discussion. Uber’s employment practices are nothing short of shameful, beginning with the very definition of what constitutes an employee in the eyes of Uber. Uber classifies those who drive for them as independent contractors rather than employees. This allows Uber to avoid providing their drivers with the essential benefits companies are normally required to give to employees. Uber views its employees as profit centers rather than human beings.
Millennials should not excuse this behavior merely because Uber has branded itself a new kind of cooperation. One should not assume they are any different in their neo-liberal self-interested profit-seeking just because they use an app.

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