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Uber Reaches Tentative Settlement With Drivers In Class Action Suits


The ridesharing company Uber is settling two class-action lawsuits. They were filed by its drivers in Massachusetts and California. If a federal district judge in San Francisco approves the deal, Uber will pay up to a hundred million dollars to hundreds of thousands of workers. NPR's Aarti Shahani has more.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: I'm hopping in a bunch of Uber cars and talking with my drivers about the settlement. On the billion- or multibillion-dollar question, should drivers be independent contractors or employees with sick leave and benefits, Uber won. Drivers remain contractors. Their take on that...

ANDREA CORDOBA: I wish were employees 'cause it's so hard trying to take the taxes out.

FRANK MADKINS: I don't want a full-time job because I already have one. I'm a pastor.

LADIAMOND HARVEY: I'm fine with being an independent contractor. I mean, I knew it was when I signed up - no benefits. Those are the downsides to the job - is no benefits.

SHAHANI: That’s Andrea Cordoba, Frank Madkins and Ladiamond Harvey. In a blog post, Uber CEO over CEO Travis Kalanick said drivers value their independence, the freedom to push a button rather than punch a clock. He said almost 90 percent of his drivers want to be their own boss. The drivers appear to be a bit more conflicted about it.

CORDOBA: Well, yesterday I got a ticket for parking for UberEATS.

SHAHANI: Cordoba says she double parked because there was no parking.

CORDOBA: But you know, my job is to pick up the food - came back and got a ticket, so it's always - I always have to pay something.

SHAHANI: She'd like to get reimbursed for business expenses, and she'd like to be eligible for paid vacation if she's driving 40-plus hours a week. Harvey, who is a single mom, says that's a nice idea. But it wasn't part of the original deal, so it's not an expectation.

HARVEY: This kind of job is not something that someone's going to get and retire on.

SHAHANI: Madkins, the pastor, makes another point. Because Uber is more casual than a regular job, the feeling in the car, for him, is more social.

MADKINS: I'm just a people person. I love people. This is my street ministry.

SHAHANI: Under the settlement, there are other concessions to drivers, things that are more incremental. In the past, if a driver got a couple poor ratings from passengers, Uber could just terminate, and there was no way to appeal at all. Now Uber will have to give cause in most instances and a fair process.

Also this may come as a big surprise to you. Drivers were not getting tips before. Uber's been criticized for misrepresenting that fact. Cordoba recalls this one Uber employee in a news interview.

CORDOBA: And she said, oh, no, no, the tip is included, but if you see the breakdown of the - your payment, there's nothing that says tip.

SHAHANI: Now Uber must clarify. Tips are not included; feel free to give one. Ladiamond Harvey says that's more fair, and she wants the chance to be rewarded for her professionalism.

HARVEY: When a person gets in my car and they say where they're going, I just take them directly there without having to use my GPS. And they love that. That's good service. That's doing your job and knowing how to do your job.

SHAHANI: It's unclear if drivers will start to put tip jars in the car and handle cash of if Uber will do what its competitor Lyft does, which is build the option into the app and charge the credit card. Aarti Shahani, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Aarti Shahani is a correspondent for NPR. Based in Silicon Valley, she covers the biggest companies on earth. She is also an author. Her first book, Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares (out Oct. 1, 2019), is about the extreme ups and downs her family encountered as immigrants in the U.S. Before journalism, Shahani was a community organizer in her native New York City, helping prisoners and families facing deportation. Even if it looks like she keeps changing careers, she's always doing the same thing: telling stories that matter.