Monday, January 18, 2021

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: The Freedom or the Responsibility

Steffanie Rivers
Steffanie Rivers

*My mother vacationed in Europe last month. A few days after her return from Paris, taxi drivers there staged a protest against the arrival of Uber. Uber is the San Francisco-based company that links people who need transportation with people who want to offer transportation in their private vehicles. Riders request transportation via the Uber smart phone app, and pre-screened drivers are summoned to the location.

Drivers must hold a valid license, have a registered four-door vehicle and pass a background check to be get approved. Even though no money is exchanged between riders and drivers (it’s all done electronically), Uber rates are competitive and its drivers are not held to the same regulations as traditional taxi drivers. Naturally, that has many taxi drivers around the world protesting the company’s expansion to their area.

People are lining up to become Uber drivers because the company allows them the freedom to set their own schedules, choose their own pick-up areas including airports and, in essence, make as much or as little money on a full-time or part-time basis while wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

But some Uber drivers are suing the company, claiming they should be classified as employees instead of independent contractors. Independent contractors don’t qualify for healthcare benefits. Regular employees could. Independent contractors are responsible for their own vehicle expenses. Regular employees could have their expenses covered by the company. Although I don’t have ownership in the company, Uber’s business model works best using independent drivers, because it avoids the risk of a traditional taxi company (which owns the vehicles and hires drivers) while having the reward of paying customers.

Most drivers sign on with Uber because they can’t find full-time jobs or their traditional jobs don’t pay enough to make ends meet and the flexibility to work or not work provides the freedom of choice that most jobs don’t offer. Even pizza delivery drivers have to clock-in on a schedule. Now, some drivers want to force Uber to do what it never intended: Offer healthcare benefits and pay vehicle expenses?

American workers are getting more lazy with each passing generation. It’s rare to find people who are willing to start from nothing and build a company into something. And when people see somebody with the initiative to do so, they want to sue their way into ownership of it or cheat owners into giving them a piece of it. Most people don’t want to get up early or stay late or work weekends. They want dress-down Friday everyday of the week, because wearing business attire is asking too much. It’s true what Primerica Insurance founder A.L. Williams said in an old recruiting tape: In business, you’ll beat ninety percent of the competition just be showing up and working hard, because most people don’t have the initiative to get started; If you are an ethical person you’ll beat another five percent of the competition, because most people want to cheat their way to the top. The remaining five percent is your real competition.

Recently I read a column written by a political supporter of Hillary Clinton. The woman wanted to work on Clinton’s presidential campaign. She touted Clinton’s propaganda and said the former FLOTUS is the ideal person to become the first woman POTUS, that is until she learned there would be no pay for whatever campaign position she had applied: Something about how Clinton could not raise the status of women in America if she expects them to work on her campaign without pay. Perish the thought! While I understand her argument to a degree, Clinton or any other politician, shouldn’t be expected to pay every campaign worker for the many hours and labor it takes to support their campaigns. That’s akin to paying for votes, which is illegal the last time I checked.

When I worked on political campaigns I did so because I believed in the candidates’ platform and probability to affect progress. Whether or not I received pay was inconsequential. A few free meals, introductions to community leaders and the possibility of a paid staff position if the candidate is elected are not promised. Had this columnist never heard of unpaid internships or volunteering for experience?

For Uber drivers to want the perks of being an independent contractor and the benefits of being a full-time employee is indicative of a welfare mentality: Someone who wants maximum return for minimum efforts and is willing to work harder for the handouts than for the job itself. These people always will be around. Unfortunately so are the legal loopholes that validate their behavior.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Email her at [email protected] for comments, questions and speaking inquiries.

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