With Uber’s Stock Tanking, Trump’s NLRB Rides to Its Rescue

Richard Drew/AP Photo

Stock traders gather around the post where Uber shares will begin trading during the company's initial public offering at the New York Stock Exchange. 

Uber Has Poisoned an IPO Market That Was Sick Anyway,” a Wall Street Journal headline proclaimed this morning. When the market closed Monday, two days after the company had first listed its stock, Uber’s shares had declined by 18 percent from its IPO listing of $45. 

To deter Uber’s owners from hurling themselves off of Airbnb high-rises, however, the Trumpified National Labor Relations Board endeavored to come to their rescue today. With stories like the Journal’s declaring that Uber ownership was a fool’s errand, the Board chose today to release an April 16 “Advice Memorandum” from the office of its general counsel which emphatically concluded that Uber drivers were independent contractors with no right to form a union or bargain collectively. For a company like Uber, which has never yet shown a profit, a guarantee that it will never need to give its drivers a raise is as close as the company can get to something resembling good news.

To reach the conclusions it reached, the general counsel drew on a Board ruling from earlier this year which found that Super Shuttle drivers were independent contractors, too. As Moshe Marvit pointed out in a Prospect article he wrote on that decision, the basis for Board’s ruling came down to the fact that if Super Shuttle drivers incurred losses while working for the company, they had to cover those losses themselves – a situation the Board’s ruling creatively characterized as “an entrepreneurial opportunity.” 

That the Board’s general counsel has now consigned Uber drivers to worker hell, then, is hardly surprising. What does raise eyebrows is the timing of the release of the counsel’s memo—a timing so egregious that it almost makes you wonder if Trump’s appointees to the NLRB have shares in Uber that they’re frantically trying to unload. In the Anything-Goes presidential administration of Donald Trump, the egregious has become so normalized and stupidity so commonplace that the Board’s action not only stinks to high heaven but should be investigated by House Democrats.

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