Mention the words “Uber” and “strike” together in the English-speaking world and people might be likely to think of the backlash against the company for breaking the New York taxi strike against Trump’s immigration ban. But Uber drivers are far from just being helpless pawns or hardened scabs: at the start of the month, hundreds of NY Uber drivers struck through the same union that organised the airport strike, while the UK’s seen drivers fighting Uber through employment tribunals, as well as the wildcat at the UberEATS food delivery service.
Looking at the global picture, it’s interesting to see that Uber drivers have been getting organised elsewhere: in Delhi, a strike among Uber and Ola drivers over the last few days, responding to conditions that’ve led some cab drivers to suicide, led to the High Court issuing an injunction against drivers who were blocking scab taxis and allegedly tearing the mobile devices out of them. The injunction also banned from drivers from staging a sit-in outside the company’s offices. The latest news in that strike is that five of the six unions involved have called it off after the transport minister promised to meet most of their demands, but the Sarvodaya Driver Association of Delhi are staying out, so it’s not clear what’ll happen next. Meanwhile, drivers in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai are talking about taking action of their own.
Over in Qatar, drivers have also been shutting down the app in protest against policies that have cut their income while fuel costs continue to rise, and the company charging commission on journeys where passengers run off without paying. A report from Atlanta takes in these different situations, and wonders whether Atlanta will see similar action soon.
The big question is, what forms will it take for workers to be able to communicate and co-ordinate action on the same global scale our bosses act at? What could cross the language and other barriers separating Uber drivers being pressured into scabbing in New York, those choosing between suicide and strike action in Delhi, those going through employment tribunals in the UK, and their coworkers in Qatar and across the world?