Why Austin Should Seize the Means of Transportation
Uber and Lyft have pulled out of Austin, Texas after voters rejected Proposition 1, the legislation that the ridesharing companies financially supported to the tune of $9 million. There are many regulatory features to bill, but the main sticking point was that Austin voters wanted a background check system that required fingerprints, which Uber and Lyft reject. The companies already require background checks for drivers, but resist the idea of using fingerprint verification. Uber claims the fingerprinting processes are unreliable and perhaps discriminatory; a more convincing take is that it gives their drivers another flag to wave while arguing that they are employees rather than “independent contractors.” However, the background check system isn’t really the broken part of the industry—it’s the relationship between capital and labor. The format of background checks is irrelevant, and as automobile manufacturers and ridesharing giants alike race to deploy and utilize autonomous vehicles, so too will the distinction between independent contractor and employee become irrelevant. The most important fight in this industry, far beyond Austin, is about equity and co-ownership of these businesses for the drivers.