Gaslighting Uber drivers on safety

When I say Uber’s concern about safety and health is performative, here’s an example.

Uber occasionally pushes notifications out through the driver app. Often these are reminders to select a “quest” or suggestions that the airport may be busy at certain times or that drivers are allegedly making lots of money late at night.

Yesterday, I saw one in which Uber was attempting to assure drivers that the company does care about our safety, outlining steps they take to verify passengers’ identities. These steps weren’t enough to protect an Uber driver who was shot in Monroeville.[1] I have felt that that driver was out driving at a time when no driver should be out, because, as I wrote, “Desperate people do desperate things. Like driving for Uber or Lyft. Like robbing Uber and Lyft drivers.”[2] And these steps utterly fail to address the problem of neighborhoods where people are fucking shooting and committing other acts of mayhem each other,[3] where drivers are liable to be caught in the crossfire.

I remember, once, when I was driving cab in San Francisco, I was driving down O’Farrell Street, along the northern frontier of the City’s Tenderloin district. I heard a gasp in my back seat. I thought it odd, but continued driving. A couple blocks down, it came out. My passengers informed me I had driven right through a gunfight.

I had no idea. I had been watching traffic. I had been watching traffic signals. I had been watching the stuff that drivers should always be watching out for. The cab was not hit. The passengers were not hit. I was not hit. But with that experience, it’s amply clear to me that Uber’s categorization of refusing service to certain neighborhoods as discrimination gives short shrift to legitimate concerns about safety.

Uber obviously can’t do anything about random gunfights. As I’ve previously argued, in Pittsburgh, you’re never far from poverty and the problems associated with poverty.[4] Driving here is simply dangerous. Especially at night, but even during the day. Often with a driving culture where what would be categorized as reckless in California is routine here. Sometimes with people shooting at each other.[5] Sometimes with somebody’s boyfriend getting in the car because she, the “identified” one, ordered it for him.[6] But we take all this risk and are paid a pittance.[7] We lack even the protection that employees would have.[8]

And Uber is gaslighting drivers, trying to tell us we’re safe.

  1. [1]Megan Tomasic, “Police charge Penn Hills man in death of Uber driver in Monroeville,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/penn-hills/police-charge-penn-hills-man-in-the-death-of-an-uber-driver-in-monroeville/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The vulnerability of Uber and Lyft driving,” Not Housebroken, February 18, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/02/18/the-vulnerability-of-uber-and-lyft-driving/
  3. [3]Jesse Bunch and Andrew Goldstein, “In the Hill District, residents grapple with recent spike in gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-hill-district-gun-violence-shootings/stories/202204140127;
    Megan Guza, “3 shot in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 12, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/3-shot-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/; Megan Guza and Ryan Deto, “Multiple shooters suspected in ‘war scene’ that killed 2, injured 8 on Pittsburgh’s North Side,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/police-11-shot-2-dead-on-pittsburghs-north-side/; Sarafina James, “Man assaulted, hospitalized following crash in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WPXI, April 8, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/man-assaulted-hospitalized-following-crash-pittsburghs-hill-district/CCH6JMSD6NAQXKODHLNFIETOZ4/; Nick Matoney, “Man shot multiple times in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WTAE, March 25, 2022, https://www.wtae.com/article/man-shot-multiple-times-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/39534380; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “One man dead after Marshall-Shadeland shooting,” April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-fatal-shooting-marshall-shadeland-police-mcclure/stories/202204160041; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “At least 11 shot, 2 dead in North Side shooting, police say,” April 17, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/17/pittsburgh-shooting-north-side-east-allegheny-update-public-safety/stories/202204170168; Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Pittsburgh police investigating shootout at South Side Flats clothing store,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-police-investigating-shootout-at-south-side-flats-clothing-store/; WPXI, “19-year-old killed, 1 other injured in Hill District shooting,” April 11, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/2-people-injured-hill-district-shooting/XL2XHK7AVFEVDD42QUYIGUDSOQ/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Real and imagined hazards, real and imagined causes,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/04/21/real-and-imagined-hazards-real-and-imagined-causes/
  5. [5]Jesse Bunch and Andrew Goldstein, “In the Hill District, residents grapple with recent spike in gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-hill-district-gun-violence-shootings/stories/202204140127;
    Megan Guza, “3 shot in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 12, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/3-shot-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/; Megan Guza and Ryan Deto, “Multiple shooters suspected in ‘war scene’ that killed 2, injured 8 on Pittsburgh’s North Side,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/police-11-shot-2-dead-on-pittsburghs-north-side/; Sarafina James, “Man assaulted, hospitalized following crash in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WPXI, April 8, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/man-assaulted-hospitalized-following-crash-pittsburghs-hill-district/CCH6JMSD6NAQXKODHLNFIETOZ4/; Nick Matoney, “Man shot multiple times in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WTAE, March 25, 2022, https://www.wtae.com/article/man-shot-multiple-times-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/39534380; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “One man dead after Marshall-Shadeland shooting,” April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-fatal-shooting-marshall-shadeland-police-mcclure/stories/202204160041; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “At least 11 shot, 2 dead in North Side shooting, police say,” April 17, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/17/pittsburgh-shooting-north-side-east-allegheny-update-public-safety/stories/202204170168; Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Pittsburgh police investigating shootout at South Side Flats clothing store,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-police-investigating-shootout-at-south-side-flats-clothing-store/; WPXI, “19-year-old killed, 1 other injured in Hill District shooting,” April 11, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/2-people-injured-hill-district-shooting/XL2XHK7AVFEVDD42QUYIGUDSOQ/
  6. [6]Megan Tomasic, “Police charge Penn Hills man in death of Uber driver in Monroeville,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/penn-hills/police-charge-penn-hills-man-in-the-death-of-an-uber-driver-in-monroeville/
  7. [7]Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018, https://thepointsguy.com/2018/03/revised-mit-study-says-uber-lyft-drivers-make-about-8-or-10-per-hour/; Edward Ongweso, Jr., “Uber and Lyft Can’t Find Drivers Because Gig Work Sucks,” Vice, July 8, 2021, https://www.vice.com/en/article/7kvej4/uber-and-lyft-cant-find-drivers-because-gig-work-sucks; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo; Rida Qadri and Alexandra Mateescu, “Uber and Lyft: woo drivers with stable pay, not short-term honeypots,” Guardian, June 20, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/20/gig-economy-companies-uber-lyft-drivers-pandemic; Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/
  8. [8]Lee Fang, “Uber CEO Admits Company Can Afford Labor Protections for Drivers,” Intercept, January 7, 2022, https://theintercept.com/2022/01/07/uber-drivers-labor-protections-dara-khosrowshahi-european-union/; Brody Mullins and Ryan Tracy, “Uber, Lyft and Others Launch Campaign to Head Off Unions,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-lyft-and-others-launch-campaign-to-head-off-unions-11646733600; José Rodríguez, Jr., “Uber And Lyft Could Soon Have A Hard Time Denying Drivers Full Worker Status,” Jalopnik, December 28, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-could-soon-have-a-hard-time-denying-drive-1848276541

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