Giant ride sharing company, Uber, has made headlines for a plethora of controversial events since its current rise in popularity. It’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, has been under fire after aligning with the current national administration, and the company has received an overwhelming amount of sexual harassment claims from riders and employees. Then there was the surge in rates that rocked even the most loyal of customers to the company. As a result of the great scrutiny, the company is seemingly always under, higher ups have taken several actions to protect its employees with its first offered form of insurance. Many say that it’s a knee-jerk reaction to the many Uber strikes conducted by injured drivers emerging all over the nation. But the company claims that it is about time it starts taking care of its employees.
If a worker becomes injured on their job in the United States, the costs are usually covered by the individual’s employer through disability insurance and worker’s compensation. Drivers who work for ride sharing companies are obligated to only acquire personal auto insurance that conforms with state law to work. But since drivers are considered independent contractors rather than employees in the eyes of these companies, they do not have to provide insurance coverage in the event that drivers become injured.
Protesters who have named themselves Uber Drivers United hit the streets in several parts of the county to express their grievances of dwindling pay and unfair treatment. Angry drivers in San Francisco marched last year, claiming that they, as the drivers who made Uber a billion dollar company, should receive consistent pay and some sort of protection for the hard work they do. Stories circulated about the driver’s woes, one of which included a man (who does not wish to be named) who lost both of his legs in a car accident while on the job and was not offered any type of help or compensation for his injuries from the company. Some cities like Seattle have heard the cries of the people and tried to allow for the drivers to unionize. However, federal laws contradict this effort by prohibiting contractors from collective bargaining.
But Uber’s new insurance system, called the optional pilot program, will offer protection in the event of an accident. According to recent articles, the company will charge consumers extra money to pay out up to $1 million for medical expenses and a maximum of $150,000 in survivor’s benefits. Drivers will have the option of paying for this protection, – $3.75 cents per mile, to be exact – it won’t be automatically given to each contractor working for the company. So far, the program will only be available in eight states, including Illinois, Massachusetts, South Carolina, West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Traditional labor groups like the National Employment Law Project have voiced their displeasure with the company’s efforts, calling the pilot program an “attempt to shore up its faltering image.”Uber
“Instead of paying workers’ compensation premiums to cover all of its workers, as responsible businesses do, Uber will charge drivers for the medical care and time-loss benefits that the rest of us by virtue of working at a job,” project director Rebecca Smith said. “If Uber valued its workers, it would simply pay its workers’ compensation premiums and cover all of them.”