Following the lead of southern cities like Nashville and Charlotte, Mayor Sandy Stimpson heralded the arrival of the Uber transportation service to Mobile in a recent press conference in Bienville Square. Uber Announcement on Al.com & Uber in Southern Cities on Al.com. Through its popular digital phone app, the Uber service makes real-time connections between customers looking for transportation and its available fleet drivers. This is welcome news according to many residents who have long complained about the paucity of cabs when they needed a safe ride from festivities or the airport. The service will also be a boon to those looking for freelance work with flexible hours. However, not everyone in the city is happy about the arrival, including the owners of some local transportation companies. Opposition to Uber in Mobile on Al.com.
Meanwhile, on the national front, the service is facing challenges from its drivers on their status as independent contractors. A California state labor commission recently ruled that based on the degree of control the company exerts over its drivers (including a minimum approval rating from customers), they should be considered ‘employees’ and thus entitled to California employee rights and protection. Uber Employee Debate on Slate.com. This legal debate is far from over, but the costs of treating workers as employees rather than independent contractors would have huge impact on ‘sharing economy’ companies like Uber, a company currently worth billions.
From a legal and personal standpoint it will be interesting to watch this story develop nationally and within our own port city.