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Photo via Teamsters.
Photo via Teamsters.

Uber and UberX drivers angry with how they’ve been treated formed a new association on Sunday.

With the help of Teamsters Local 117, an organization that represents taxi drivers and helps unions across the Puget Sound region, the drivers approved by-laws and elected a leadership council for the “App-Based Drivers’ Association.”

“Job security, wage gouging, public safety, and a refusal of transportation network companies, such as Uber, Sidecar, and Lyft, to adhere to local laws and industry standards compelled the drivers to organize,” Teamsters noted.

The members, who will pay $25 per month for the association, have complained about how they’ve been treated by Uber— specifically with the way Uber removes drivers from its system — in addition to a concern over sufficient liability coverage to protect drivers and riders.

uberx“Today is a historic day for all app-based drivers in King County,” Daniel Ajema, an Uber driver and organizer of the association, said in a statement. “We set a framework for the future and for the workers who follow us.  From now on, our dignity will be protected in the workplace.”

At a meeting last month that sparked the formation of the new association, former Uber driver Yedidta Seifu told KING5 that Uber “treats us a little better than slaves.” On the same day, William Anderson, another former Uber driver, noted that once his rating went from a perfect 5 stars to 4.6, Uber shut down his phone without warning.

However, Uber Seattle GM Brooke Steger told GeekWire today that Seifu refused to take a background check. Anderson, meanwhile, failed his background check.

“We want to protect the partner drivers that provide quality service and have a clean background,” Steger said. “They’ll end up with more business in the end.”

Steger added that Uber is “always open to constructive feedback and to solve any problems partners may be facing.”

“We try our best to provide weekly feedback to all drivers, as well as provide constructive feedback to drivers who continuously do not meet the needs of riders,” Steger said. “We never remove a driver for a single incident unless there are safety concerns.”

Here’s an official statement from Uber, which calls out Teamsters for “protecting taxi license owners”:

Uber is a technology platform and we partner with thousands of small businesses in the Seattle area. Owners of these small businesses are free to exercise their rights under federal and local law, meet with each other and to provide Uber with feedback about their partnership. In fact, we encourage this feedback; we hold weekly coffees that all partners are invited to, offer support via email and text message 7 days a week, have open office hours throughout the week, and also have an anonymous feedback form.

A partner that is a safe driver, with a consistently clean criminal and driving record, who provides good customer service and keeps their small business in order is at no risk of Uber’s partnership ending. Safety and service are Uber’s top priorities.

While Uber’s top priority is safety, the Teamsters Local 117’s top priority is recruiting membership and protecting taxi license owners. Uber partners on average makeover $15/hour, more than the average taxi driver, and partners are not confined to high lease fees or restrictive schedules.

Uber is proud that just 4 years ago we created a platform that has fundamentally changed the way people get a ride and enabled drivers across the world to build their own small business in a way never before possible.

Drivers from Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are welcome to join the new association, which will have a similar model to that of the Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association (WWTCOA) — a group that is also supported by Teamsters and sued Uber back in March for “unlawful and deceptive business practice.”

Meanwhile in Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray may issue a cease-and-desist letter to UberX, Lyft and Sidecar if an agreement cannot be reached by June 2 between representatives from the San Francisco-based startups, taxi companies and City officials to create a set of laws for the new startups, which are currently operating with no regulation in Seattle.

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