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Uber, UK union deal may have global ramifications for labor rights

Cornell University
27-May-2021 3:45 PM EDT, by Cornell University

Uber is formally recognizing British trade union GMB, which will mean it can represent drivers — a milestone for labor activists pushing for fairer working conditions.

Maria Figueroa, director of labor and policy research at Cornell University’s Worker Institute, says this development in the U.K could have global influence on labor law reforms that benefit gig workers.

Figueroa says: 

“This is a step in the right direction, and it could have ramifications across Europe and globally, as more countries and sub-national (state) level governments consider labor law reforms to provide bargaining rights to gig workers.

“The U.K. offers a third-way model, which involves a worker classification that’s in between the employment and independent contractor categories. This is similar to the Canadian dependent contractor classification, which was formulated last year by the postal workers union to represent delivery workers engaged by the labor platform Foodora.

“An increasing number of worker advocates and policymakers might explore this third-way option. In New York state, there is a bill that might be introduced to provide bargaining rights to app-based workers in rideshare and delivery, without reclassifying them as employees. This bill has generated a heated debate among those who favor the right-to-bargain proposal and those who oppose it.”

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