Hundreds of Uber Drivers in Toronto Are Joining a Union
In a growing number of cities where rideshare platforms operate, drivers are fed up with the low pay, long hours, and lack of basic worker protections that shlepping strangers around entails. In the U.S., this has led to large, coordinated protests and attempts to game the system to achieve a living wage. Canadian drivers, however, took a more traditional route: signing union cards.
First announced on Monday, Uber drivers based in Toronto expressed their intention to join the United Food and Commercial Workers, a 250,000-strong trade union which operates in both Canada and the U.S. The actual number of drivers who had signed cards was not released, but during a press conference this afternoon, UFCW Canada staffer Pablo Godoy claimed their support had hit the “high hundreds” and were growing rapidly.
As with grassroots groups like Rideshare Drivers United, the hope is to bring Uber’s work standards into closer parity with that of traditional cabs by upholding the regional minimum wage, sick day, vacation, and break standards, as well as an overhaul of the deactivation system that effectively allows Uber to fire drivers without recourse. “These are human rights, and all drivers deserve this basic level of respect,” Ejaz Butt, a local driver, said today.
What makes Ontario an interesting test bed is that by signing with UFCW, drivers are effectively shooting first and asking questions later—which may end up being the wiser tactic. “Today is the beginning of a process that we’re embarking on. The first step of that process is to call Uber come to the table,” Godoy said, though he readily admits Uber has yet to offer a response. (For whatever it’s worth, Gizmodo also reached out to Uber for comment on Monday and has also not received a reply.) The same business model that allows Uber to consider its drivers independent contractors rather than employees exists in Canada just as it does in the U.S., and Uber is certain to defend its claim vociferously if it’s forced to acknowledge a threat to said claim at all.
At the moment, the UFCW-signed drivers in Canada’s largest city are not certified as a union, and matters may be further complicated by the fact that most rideshare drivers operate on multiple platforms concurrently. “Having multiple employers does not mean that you’re not an employee of the company that you drive or work for,” Godoy stated, but it may still pose representation issues down the line.
Currently, Toronto’s city government is weighing how to balance the interests of rideshare and cab companies—something New York already had a protracted fight over, eventually ruling in favor of drivers. Ultimately, Godoy told the press that “we believe Uber will listen to the concerns.”
Toronto Uber drivers join the union - UFCW Canada – MEDIA CONFERENCE ALERT
TORONTO, June 24, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Hundreds of Uber drivers in Toronto have joined UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers union), the country’s leading private-sector union. On Wednesday, June 26, 2019 at 11 a.m., Uber drivers and their union will hold a media conference at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel to discuss the challenges Uber drivers face, and the redress they and their union are seeking from Uber.
Uber drivers don’t get paid sick days, vacation days or extended health coverage, and must cover their own fuel and repair costs. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute calculated that after costs, most Uber drivers earned less than $10 an hour. “Uber calls us partners, but we have absolutely no say about our working conditions, or even being able to take a bathroom break,” says Ejaz Butt, who works for Uber and helped start the union drive. “We know we make a lot of money for Uber but in return we get treated like we don’t matter.” Butt and other Uber drivers will be at the June 26th Toronto media conference.
“Companies like UBER, who can hire and fire drivers and fully dictate the terms of employment should be held accountable for the well-being of their employees,” says Paul Meinema, the National President of UFCW Canada. “Uber is the employer. The drivers are employees. The technology is just a management tool and the company should adhere to the labour laws,” says the UFCW Canada leader, who will also be participating in the June 26th media conference in Toronto.
About UFCW Canada: UFCW Canada represents more than 250,000 union members across the country working in food retail and processing, transportation, health, logistics, warehousing, agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing, security and professional sectors. UFCW Canada is the country’s most innovative organization dedicated to building fairness in workplaces and communities. UFCW Canada members are your neighbours who work at your local grocery stores, hotels, airport food courts, taxi firms, car rental agencies, nursing homes, restaurants, food processing plants and thousands of other locations across the country. To find out more about UFCW and its ground-breaking work, visit www.ufcw.ca.
National Coordinator, Gig and Platform-Employer Initiatives
416-675-1104, extension 2236