Uber shareholders will vote on Monday offer which, if approved, would force the company to fully disclose its “direct and indirect lobbying activities and expenses.”
Proponents of the proposal argue that such information is critical to understanding the sustainability of Uber’s business model.
“How much do you need to lobby to develop your markets or defend your markets? Because it depends on how you make money,” Michael Price-Jones, senior government analyst at the International Brotherhood of Drivers, the union that wrote the proposal, told TechCrunch.
Last year, Teamsters introduced the same offer for the first time. It failed, with only 30% of the shareholders voting in favor. The group vowed to continue to put pressure on Uber and other companies. Drivers put forward a similar proposal with Lyft.) to get more land in the future.
Like other app companies, Uber’s business model relies on a gig workforce and its own regulatory arbitrage that allows it to bypass some traditional employer responsibilities, including employee benefits and protections such as minimum wages.
In 2020, companies such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash collectively spent more than $200 million to transition Proposal 22 California has legislation that would consider workers to be independent contractors rather than employees. According to Uber’s 2021 U.S. Political Engagement Report, the company alone spent nearly $30 million on Proposition 22.
This was stated by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. repeatedly that Uber will continue to be loud for similar laws in other states. The company is currently doing this in Massachusettswhere in 2021 he invested more than $100,000 in a voting initiative similar to Proposition 22 put forward by the MA Coalition for Independent Work, an app-based taxi and on-demand delivery group.
Uber has also financially supported similar coalitions in Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, with varying degrees of success, according to the report.
Despite these revelations, drivers are pushing for more transparency.
“I know what you reveal. What worries me the most is what you don’t disclose,” Price-Jones said, noting that Uber’s lack of disclosure is a reputational risk, especially in today’s cancellation culture where it’s easy to be on the wrong side of a socially fraught problem. . “The question is, why don’t you disclose it? We know they are pioneering in creating so-called independent working coalition groups that they disclose what they fund, but we don’t know how much, so that’s a critical hole in their current disclosures.”
The Uber Political Activity Report reveals amounts contributed by some coalitions for independent work, but curiously not for others. As suggested by the shareholders, there is also no reporting on the amounts of money transferred to potentially undisclosed activities at the grassroots level.
“What’s frustrating is that the company will justify everything they disclose to you, but then they come up with some reason why the extra amount can’t be disclosed, and they don’t give a good rationale for it given that they provided other disclosures,” Price-Jones said. “It only makes you suspicious that there is something to hide.”
Many corporations get away with covert lobbying. participation in 501(c)(4) organizations, which the IRS classifies as social security organizations, but shady companies rely on participation in campaign politics while keeping their sources of funding secret. One of the reasons for this is astroturfing, or creating a false appearance of mass activity, which Uber and its cohort are accused of through various independent working groups.
Uber’s board of directors is recommending a vote against this year’s proposal, saying such disclosure is unnecessary given the company’s “existing risk management practices” and the fact that it is already transparent about some, but importantly, not all lobbying activities.
In its objection, Uber says it has made transparent the company’s corporate political contributions and independent spending, as well as its list of 501(c)(6) trade association members.
“We also publicly disclose state and local lobbying spending and activity when required by law,” the statement said, perhaps inadvertently emphasizing the fact that there is no interstate consistency in lobbying activity reports, allowing Uber bypasses full nationwide disclosure of information to its shareholders. “Uber reported US federal lobbying spending of $2,060,000 and approximately $3,933,353 state and local in calendar year 2021. This level of transparency and detail is the best in the industry compared to any of our US sharing and delivery partners.”
Even if it’s true to say that Uber is indeed “industry-leading” compared to other app companies, it’s also true to say that the bar for industry leadership is somewhere near the floor. After all, Uber and Lyft are being blamed for removing the page from tobacco industry lobbying plan spending millions to challenge independent, company-critical research, pay for their own self-serving research, manipulate the media, create fake grassroots movements, and more.
However, Uber claims, in essence, that it knows what it is doing and its shareholders must trust management to make money for them, despite the fact that The company’s unlimited cash has been drastically reduced since its peak in mid-2019.
“Strong governance and risk management systems are critical elements of Uber’s political and lobbying efforts,” Uber said in an opposition statement. with Uber’s policies and procedures, as well as applicable laws, regulations, and related legal reporting requirements.”
The company also says it has developed lobbying principles “that focus on compliance, honesty, integrity, professionalism and diligence” that consultants lobbying for Uber must adhere to.
While it’s unlikely that Teamster’s proposal will be passed on Monday, given the board’s recommendation to vote no, it could lead to more transparency going forward.
“At the very least, open up the shared bucket,” Price-Jones said. “Not necessarily how much goes to any particular organization, but just give us an idea of the amount, how much. Because we literally don’t know if we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg or if we’re seeing the whole thing.”
Credit: techcrunch.com /