The Über-Union: Re-Thinking Collective Bargaining for the Gig Economy

de Haan, James
Charleston Law Review

America’s nearly century-old approach to employment and labor law is at a crossroads. The gig economy has re-defined work for millions of people; people who value the flexibility and freedom inherent in platform work. However, independent contractors were historically capable of negotiating their fees, working conditions, and term of contract. But most on-demand workers no longer have that power; platform companies offer contracts on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis. The scales are tipped, and it is in the best interest of society to help re-empower the contractors involved with on-demand work. Interestingly, Uber, the very company that brought this problem to the forefront of the country’s attention, may have stumbled upon a solution. Uber’s proposed settlement in O'Connor involved funding and facilitating a Driver’s Association. Though sponsored by Uber, the group would be “comprised of elected driver leaders who can create a dialogue for further programmatic relief that comes from the drivers themselves.” Uber agreed to meet with these elected representatives “to discuss and, in good faith, try to address driver concerns.” This article suggests that these quasi-union “Contractor Associations” are the key to striking that magic balance, and giving on-demand employees a voice within platform companies.