People-based economy at stake in battle over Uber-like services | What's Left

While private financiers and apolitical, middle-class thirty-somethings love to take Uber cabs because there's lots of cool buzz, governments and workers are not so enamoured. While it can sometimes cost less and seem more convenient, the 'disruptive' (illegal) practices of Uber have been shown to undermine regulation, eliminate wage floors for cab drivers, and encourage other exploitive and unregulated services.

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One of the the service’s main goals is to push licensed drivers out of the market by driving down wages.

Recently in France, Uber management were arrested for allegedly purposefully breaking laws regulating the taxi industry, and were forced to shut-down the UberPOP service in that country. Following a judge’s ruling that Uber doesn’t seem to operate as a “dispatcher” and is only a phone application, Toronto taxi drivers have threatened to protest during the PanAm Games.

The pressure from progressives needs to be directed at governments to strengthen regulation and eliminate rent-seeking by for-profit multi-license holders. Companies that exploit mass ownership of taxi medallions have had a downwards pressure on the wages of drivers while acting as a drag on the quality of service. Municipalities and taxi driver cooperatives struggling with these aggressive free market entrepreneurs can find some answers by consulting taxi-driver unions who have been asking for reforms for decades.

While it is easy to see benefits from technology (like using an app to hail a cab), it is important for socialists to remind each other about the need for a just and planned transition for workers, especially since apps exist for most cab companies. Disruption cannot be used as an excuse to drive working people into poverty wages and promote deregulation.

More: Uber wins court battle against Toronto

More: Uber suspends UberPOP in France