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Uber driver says he's really an Uber employee, wants to be paid at least the state minimum wage and overtime

A Haverhill man who drives for Uber has filed what he hopes will become a class-action suit to force Uber to treat its Massachusetts drivers as employees - which means ensuring they get paid at least the state minimum wage and overtime and that they get reimbursed for their car and phone expenses.

In a federal suit filed yesterday, John Capriole says Uber's detailed - and arbitrary - conditions for how Capriole and other drivers must work, coupled with the fact that Capriole does not run an independent livery service means he's no independent contractor, but an employee as defined by Massachusetts law.

Capriole, who says he has driven for Uber since 2016, says there have been times he has made less than the state minimum wage of $12 an hour, and that he has worked more than 40 hours a week for Uber on several occasions without being paid overtime. In addition, Uber sometimes cuts what drivers are paid through promotional offers without consulting the drivers.

Capriole is seeking a judge's declaration that he and other Uber drivers in Massachusetts are, in fact, employees, that they be paid according to state wage laws and reimbursed for both expenses and time spent going to and from Uber rides. He adds he's not just in it for the money:

The injunction that Plaintiff seeks is in the nature of a public injunction and is not solely for the benefit of himself and other Uber drivers. Instead, ordering Uber to comply with Massachusetts law is in the public interest because Uber’s violation of the law diminishes labor standards more generally in the Massachusetts economy and particularly in the transportation industry. Complying competitors are put at a disadvantage when companies such as Uber flout the law by misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. Public funds are also impacted by these violations because the state incurs costs in supporting and providing services
to employees who are not properly paid and do not even receive minimum wage.

Capriole's attornery is Shannon Liss-Riordan of Boston, who has sued Uber on the independent-contractor issue before - and who is currently running against Ed Markey for Senate in the 2020 elections.

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Comments

Hoping this nonsense that these independent contractors are employees will ultimately be the undoing of Uber.

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Voting closed 42

You really want the undoing of the company that

1. Massively improved quality of transit over the cab status quo
2. Enabled people in "riskier" parts of town who were normally skipped for rides to reliably get them
3. Technologically superior and safer product in every way, where you have recourse to the driver that went a bad route or abused riders (which while happens, does so at a far lower rate), or that you left your things in the car
4. Lyft does the same tricks, they're just better at staying out of the spotlight
5. Did all of this at much lower cost than what we had with cabs
6. Freed cab drivers of burdensome, or wholly unattainable medallion system
7. Enables tons of people to make part time cash very easily
8. Is optimizing for shared rides and thus higher car utilization, while lowering the need for people to have them at all and thus in the long run getting us to a future where less people need to own cars (greener, better usage of roads and parking resources long term)

Oh, and should it be ruled they are "employees" then Uber gets to tell drivers "You don't get to drive for Lyft anymore" - what do you think happens to driver earnings and network capacity once that happens? Higher prices and longer waits to get a ride, never mind less flexibility for the drivers.

Uber and Lyft are no saints, but this knee-jerk reaction of "oh they are just the worst things ever and do no good and enable no benefits to parties involved and should go out of business" is simply boring and stupid.

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Voting closed 54

Safer? Really?

As a pedestrian, what I observe are amatuers playing at Taxi, who disregard red lights, stop anywhere they want, attempt to hail rides ("gypsy cab" style) ... how is that safer? In the last week alone, I've been nearly hit twice. First, by an asshole playing on his phone who ran a stop sign at Gloucester Street/Newbury, then last night by one trying to cross three lanes of traffic to drop his rider at the Mandarin, all while completely oblivious to the red light in front of 800 Boylston Street.

Thanks, I'll take a cab. (Added benefit of they don't track/sell my personal data via my mobile device.)

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Voting closed 25

I mean, I want this world where taxi drivers are professionals who obey traffic laws, are careful drivers, don't talk or text while driving, and aren't constantly trying to scam their customers.

But in reality? Aha hahaha.

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Voting closed 21

Everyone knows that cab drivers can be a little crazy on the roads. However, in my observations, Uber/Lyft drivers are 10x as bad.

On top of it, at least you can see a cab coming because it's marked as a cab and generally has some big goofy light device on the top. Ubers and Lyfts are just cars with no identifying marks.

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Voting closed 10

Used to be a foot messenger. Only time I've been hit by a car was by an Uber driver who then tried to leave the scene.

Absolutely not safer than cabs!

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Voting closed 7

... and most ridiculous defense of Uber I’ve ever read.
LOL!

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Voting closed 20

Someone who owns a medallion. Maybe more than one?

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Voting closed 11

To suggest that anyone who has a critical opinion of Uber/Lyft must is completely absurd.

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Voting closed 10

.... To call a well-written, sound and rational explanation of the benefits of ride sharing the "most laughable defense of Uber they've ever heard."

certainly sarcastic - but perhaps not far off.

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Voting closed 9

You certainly hand-wave off $5.2b in a single quarter pretty easily.

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Voting closed 5

What in God's name does their financial loss have to do with anything above?

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Voting closed 10

There are a lot of retorts to the legacy cab model, not without merit. But point out a rather significant one and all of the sudden it's irrelevant to them.

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Voting closed 5

We are talking about Jeff B's comment above and from nowhere you say

"But what about their $5.2 billion?"

What about it - and what does it have to do with Jeff B's comment? I'm not saying it's irrelevant - I'm saying it's neither relevant nor irrelevant if you don't make a point. Do you have one?

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Voting closed 9

It seems that you're missing a $5.2b point.

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Voting closed 4

Because in the real world, numbers don't have a point. they just measure stuff. But in your world of unicorns and rainbows and talking money, maybe they have a point.

You are a strange character.

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Voting closed 7

to figure that the business model lost like 66% of the MBTA's State of Good Repair backlog in 3 months. It doesn't exist outside and separately from the other aspects of the business. I already stated the fact that there is a lot of credible complaints about the old/legacy cab model. Say what you will about it, it didn't lose money at the appalling rate that Uber or Lyft do.

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Voting closed 2

First - do you know how much money people have lost on medallions? Add that up and it's a pretty appalling rate (I think many are 50% or more off their highs?).

Many of these businesses lose money early. Some eventually fail (pets.com?) and some become the next Amazon etc. (which is indeed often not profitable some quarters - but that's mostly by choice as they plow money back into the biz). Many pharma startups bleed money for over a decade before their drugs are approved and they become smash hits - some die a painful death when their drugs don't get approved.

80% of that loss was apparently actually stock compensation that was to make up for many employees waiting for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (which kinda landed - TBD). Operating losses were only a fraction of that - but still over $1 billion.

Bottom line - these companies are indeed losing money - but investors are still betting they'll be worth billions down the road. TBD - but in the meantime the $5.2 billion loss means very little and is completely irrelevant to the MBTA's budget. Strange indeed.

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Voting closed 5

Transportation doesn't exist in silos. I think it's actually useful to consider how much money we'll waste away on imperfect, new taxi models like Uber/Lyft when we won't prioritize money on public transportation initiatives. I think you also have to consider how Uber and Lyft are introducing massive congestion into the system. They admit it, too.

https://www.npr.org/2019/05/08/721139488/uber-and-lyft-caused-major-traf...

It's not unique to San Francisco.

Don't take me as defending the medallion system.

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Voting closed 4

we should apply the $5.2 billion loss (actually $1.3 billion on an operating basis) from a globally distributed service to a transit service that serves a teeny tiny sliver of the global population - not including taxis, cars and other transit forms.

Your analysis is SEVERELY lacking - maybe 0.25% of the $1.3 billion - and that's stretching it. so how far does $3.25 million go toward the T's infrastructure woes? Lots of assumptions - but likely a far more accurate application of Boston's role in that $5.2 billion loss.

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Voting closed 6

First, I made a comment that it's absurd of you to think that anyone critical of Uber/Lyft owns a taxi medallion. I don't think you can refute that.

Next, I said Uber loses a lot of money. Then, I said, when you consider all of the money wasted/lost in Uber, and taking a holistic view of transportation investment at large, $5.2 billion is substantial. The point was never to make an apples to apples comparison of the business model, but if you want to project, have at it.

I'd hardly call Uber a start-up at this point. It was founded over ten years ago.

How far does $3.25mm go towards the T's infrastructure woes? I mean, go to their project websites for capital projects. It's not like it's hidden.

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Voting closed 5

Uber has posted billions in losses over the last four years in order to be competitive with mass transit options, leading to ridership declines and more cars on the road, as people choose subsidized cars over walking, buses and trains. Uber is a cancer consuming the transportation sector, externalizing all of its real costs and still managing to set billions on fire. Exploitative and unsustainable. Making drivers employees would be a significant step towards creating an actual sustainable business model.

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Voting closed 7

Making drivers employees would be a significant step towards creating an actual sustainable business model.

If they're losing billions per quarter, how do you expect them to be profitable with the added expense of employees, using the same business model?

I'm not defending Uber, just asking. Honestly, I have no idea how one makes any money as an Uber driver, especially with Uber taking bigger and bigger pieces out of a fare.

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Voting closed 5

Losses for a startup, are not surprising at all. Particularly one with the things a company has to deal with in real physical space -- battling outdated regulations municipality by municipality, having on the ground marketing operations in each one, never mind deep-pocketed competitors on the international stage (where the bulk of its recent losses were outside of their most recent quarter when employee stock compensation kicked in which was a one-time event)

Exploitative cancer? Last I checked Uber drivers made more and had far less burden than cab drivers in the medallion system. Technology also keeps the cars moving as opposed to sitting around freeing up more curb space for parking or public transit or bike lanes.

That the MBTA has to compete is not a bad thing, it is not Uber's fault that MBTA funding has challenges and it is hardly Uber to blame for the MBTA being under-invested or maintained for the past 20-30 years. MBTA has been under-priced for years relative to comparable transit systems in the US. Alternatively, if fare price doesn't matter and its all due to big dig debt and lack of state funding, then you can't argue both ways that ridership is harming it.

Additionally, part of the MBTA's biggest problem are its labor costs. 1/3 MBTA employees make over 100k thanks to all kinds of overtime abuse. Maybe you support unions, but at the end of the day does that seem correct? A few years ago we were getting news that the avg compensation for a bus driver was around $89k, all forces working against the overall budget and riders/taxpayers who don't get anyone advocating them on comments sections.

There are downsides to contractor models, but for what are effectively delivery people I can't think of a more appropriate one. The whole job is hugely enabled by people doing part time work, and it works out extremely well. Forcing a full time model onto the likes of Lyft and Uber to me makes no sense, even if a segment chooses to earn a living that way. I am pretty sure the majority of drivers are part-time and it would seem the silent majority is happy with the arrangement, never mind how well it works out for the riders. It's a stink in the likes of California where unions are very powerful, and see it as a front line in finding new members in an age of overall decline, but that doesn't make it inherently correct. A new layer of employee overhead is not going to make Uber sustainable faster (which, btw they are generally profitable in most large US metros, and losses tend to be in more developing markets)

FYI Uber's app even will route you via public transit, yes they have large goals overall but the future of transit should be more dynamic routing of buses and cars enabled by technology, not less. In the long run Uber/Lyft enable fewer people to own cars right off the bat, but they are not just cars and are getting involved with things like scooters and e-bikes too.

The solution to too many cars on the road are congestion pricing and tolls. The gas tax is already weakening because of the rise of electronic cars (which is an outcome we want) and its time to move toward new funding. I think ride-sharing should pay a lower toll than traditional passenger cars because they're moving far more people all day which is good overall for transit as opposed to one car driving into the city and parking somewhere all day, but there are policy solutions to this.

It is dumb to me to make this an "us vs. them" debate. The city should be enabling people to get from A to B at the lowest cost and highest convenience possible. Whether that is the MBTA for some, Uber for others, or a combination of both like I imagine most riders do (certainly how I do things, as well as use Blue Bikes -- BTW costs $99/year and certainly is taking people off the MBTA too so do you hate those?)

We're entering a golden age of mobility, and ride sharing is part of it (as are the other bus companies that are popping up). Just because the MBTA had an easy transit monopoly in the past doesn't entitle it to one going forward and should be forced to compete on the merits of itself.

Something every knee-jerk supporter of "full employee status" should read related to what is happening in California right now: https://stratechery.com/2019/ab-5-uber-and-the-gig-economy-the-abc-test-...

As it is, AB 5 supporters seem rather oblivious to the fact there will be knock-on effects to the legislation, should it survive both court and ballot challenges. Consider this tweet: https://twitter.com/cfarivar/status/1171859862130548736

Technically, this is true: AB 5 says nothing about shifts, geographic fences, or exclusivity. What AB 5 proponents argue is that the Dynamex test should be applied to Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, etc. That’s the thing, though: if Uber cannot satisfy Test B, and thus must recognize drivers as employees, then it might as well give up on Tests A and C as well and actually treat drivers like employees, including:

* Telling drivers when and when not to work, and where
* Removing bonuses that incentivize working more
* Forbidding drivers from working for competing services
* Requiring drivers to take any ride offered to them, no matter the destination
* Require drivers to wear uniforms, or decorate their car in a particular way — perhaps a comeback for Lyft mustaches?

Indeed, the point about exclusivity in particular should give serious pause to those convinced that Uber’s argument that they are a platform is purely a self-serving one: Uber’s greatest challenge with regards to profitability is Lyft, and yet Uber has never seriously considered hiring drivers and forbidding them from working for Lyft as a condition of their employment. That strongly suggests that Uber really does believe its most important role is finding the market-clearing price for transportation, and that the cost of locking out Lyft would be a market that shrunk because either the cost would be too high or the liquidity of drivers too low.

That noted, Uber unilaterally hiring drivers is very different than both Uber and Lyft being forced to hire drivers at the same time; I can very much see an outcome where the combination of Uber’s superior scale within California and Uber’s lower exposure to California overall (6% of revenue versus 20% for Lyft) actually does allow Uber to squeeze Lyft, resulting in a monopoly that will employ a sufficient number of drivers to give relatively expensive and relatively poor-performing service to riders. You know, kind of like taxis.

If you think this thinking doesn't come with what might be significant downsides for the bulk of drivers, you aren't thinking far ahead enough.

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Voting closed 4

The guy's suit is making a reasoned argument.

Now this is an unreasoned argument:

"oh they are just the worst things ever and do no good and enable no benefits to parties involved and should go out of business"

You're making up statements and then using actual quotes?

Come on, now.

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Voting closed 4

I'm sick of what should be normal jobs being pushed off to contractors and consultants.

Ive done a lot of consulting work and it's really supposed to be designed for very short term needs, per project or ongoing but just a few hours here and there. If your product is in such high demand that people can do it full time forever... And you encourage that behavior, then you clearly have employees.

I just don't know how you regulate this. I'm thinking of all the contract and consulting jobs I've done and most were legit (one or two I should have been an employee) and I am not sure how you define a worker to include Uber drivers without including the people I have done business with.

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Voting closed 42

California already ruled against them and the State of MA already has a independent contractor law on the books which took down this practice at all of the delivery companies that we're doing this. Sooner or later it will rule that Uber and Lyft are not hiring independent contractors but employees

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Voting closed 22

Paging Sally Field...

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Voting closed 12

You build a society in which there aren't so damn many people that one is compelled to do the work at the absolute pittance one makes driving rideshare just to have a few shekels in their pocket.

Having 750,001 living spaces for 750,000 Bostonians (because that's where we're headed) would be a start. Third of everyone's income, ain't it? It would be irrelevant how much cash Bezos and Koch sit upon once everyone is sheltered, fed, and clothed.

Uber is legit the only service I can think of (not product, but service) in human history where the prices of a wildly popular offering dropped after having been established.

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Voting closed 9

Uber and Lyft battling it out have helped consumers. Both companies have multimillion dollar losses every quarter. That can't last forever and the only way out is higher prices or lower wages for drivers.

Also, most things drop in price when they become popular assuming competitors aren't blocked and products are interchangeable. Taxies would have been cheap from the get-go had there not been so many restrictions put on that business.

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Voting closed 12

If salaries were that low, no one would be driving for Uber or Lyft.

Correct?

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Voting closed 12

Drivers do it to be around chicks for pennies. Where else is a dude who barely speaks English who can't afford to live anywhere near Boston going to get a chance to be in the company of Boston women?

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Voting closed 9

Uber has one thing, and it's been duplicated by several competitors. Other than that, they own nothing. Not a single vehicle.

Honestly, it's baffling to me that they keep losing money. The Somalian immigrant whipping folks around pays for the brake pads, the San Fran bros just have to sit and rewrite code.

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Voting closed 12

It's not really that baffling; they undercut cabs on price and, what do you know, it turns out they don't charge enough money!

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Voting closed 4

The ultimate goal is to get to a point where Uber owns its own self driving car fleet... if they can kill off the competition and convince people to give up their cars they would then have a strong hold on transportation.

Amazon is in the same long game.

Consider the trolley situation back in the day when GE offered communities great incentives to switch over to their diesel powered buses and rip up their trolley cables. Eliminate the competition at whatever the cost and then sit back and reep the rewards for decades.

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Voting closed 12

GM. Also, Firestone, Esso, and others..

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Voting closed 5

Whoops! Yes GM and the others

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Voting closed 6

waitaminnit...

It all makes sense now!

Robert Moses cloned himself and is the shadowy puppetmaster!

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Voting closed 3

If Uber drivers can choose when to work. Or if they want to work at all, that is different from any job I've held as an employee.

In fact, it seems fairly "independent".

The legal arguments on both sides will be interesting.

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Voting closed 16

has a miserable and malignant customer service and I don't use them anymore. though I can't find the particular thing that makes me feel this, they also share in the same "opacity-from-us-when-we-mess-with-you/transparency-from-you-when-you-must-deal-with-us" top-down corporate ethos that was becoming super popular for a minute, like Facebook, but even also local businesses that think they are corporations or whose executive directors suffer such similar type of temporary insanity after they return from a tech-boosting weekend retreat orgy.
personally I don't want to see Lyft fail--their app actually works and I have found their customer service to be not robotic and realist.

but fuck Uber. i hope they fail. something better will replace them, yeah? isn't that what they think about everything? let's bring about that something better

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Voting closed 9

In the taxi era, guys would rent a taxi for 12 or 24 hours and make as much money as they could. There was no guarantee that they would make enough to pay back the rent (often over $100) and certainly no assurance that they would average above the minimum wage. In that case, they clearly were independent and not employees. Uber is much the same, but without the daily rent. And yet, the drivers are doing the work for the company and certainly LOOK like employees. In a perfect world Uber and the drivers and the legislature would work together to come up with regulations that would work for everyone, but I don't see that happening.

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Voting closed 9

In case you don't know .... the current Uber business plan is merely a place-holder. The plan is to go to self-driving vehicles. They're just building a brand name now. Soon enough, minimum wage jobs will be no jobs at all.

Good luck with your petty whining.

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Voting closed 10

The fact that Uber drivers set their own hours (as far as I can tell) puts them squarely in the 'contractor' category, using existing categories of employee and contractor.

But this seems to be an issue that the Legislature (not the Courts) ought to address by debating and ratifying new law. What protections should rideshare drivers have? Contractor is one extreme, while W-2 employee is another. There should be a sweet spot in between.

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Voting closed 9

The fact that Uber drivers set their own hours (as far as I can tell) puts them squarely in the 'contractor' category, using existing categories of employee and contractor.

As much as you may want it to be, this is not the multi-factor test used by the IRS or its state counterpart to determine whether an individual is appropriately classified as an an employee or independent contractor.

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Voting closed 9

No one is forced to drive for Uber. There's 3 pct unemployment out there. If you want a job as a W-2 employee you can find one. People who drive for Uber (or Lyft, or whatever) know what they're signing up for - an independent contractor relationship, with all the benefits that comes with it (freedom, flexibility, entrepreneurship, lower taxes, etc).

The only possible beneficiaries of this suit are Liss-Riordan and this firm, looking to reap millions more from a company that provides a service used by hundreds of thousands of Bay Staters.

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Voting closed 19

... people feel okay taking Ubers and Lyfts knowing how the drivers are exploited.

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Voting closed 11

I toss the driver a fiver every time.

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Voting closed 6

Nobody is forcing them to do this.

How are they being exploited?

That's a preposterous statement.

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Voting closed 15

Uber lost 5 Billion dollars last quarter. That’s 5,000,000,000. The only ones getting exploited are the shareholders.

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Voting closed 11

As owner/operator of a 1 car and one driver livery service in Western Mass. my automobile insurance rate cost is in the neighborhood of $7,400.00 per year.

Because I drive passengers to and from Boston, the insurance industry has my car 'garaged' in Boston, though my home and business is nearly 100 miles away. The only 2 insurance co's offering insurance to livery co's in Massachusetts is Pilgrim and Safety.

The Massachusetts legislature gave Lyft/Uber drivers an exemption to operate without the same liability insurance requirement.

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Voting closed 14

Blame the crooked politicians

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Voting closed 8

We’re always there for you. Please be there for us. Demand that we’re adequately paid. Uber made billions in their IPO. The high tide should raise all ships.

Also keep in mind that the code is already written. Uber’s operating costs consist of servers and parasitic executives.

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Voting closed 7

You knew what you were getting into when you signed on with them. You fake nickel chasers get no sympathy from me.

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Voting closed 7