Bait and switch

Failed companies, failed state

Like a lot of other app-based companies, Uber offered two weeks of paid sick leave to its drivers when the coronavirus pandemic started to anyone who either had COVID-19 or pre-existing conditions that put them at risk of contracting it and could no longer drive as a result. However, as drivers Steve in SF and James in Texas told me, they tried to apply for the leave and were rejected, nor do they know of anyone else who qualified for it. Three other Instacart Shoppers and two Shipt shoppers told me the same thing. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that these companies run on low labor costs and so they likely can’t actually afford to pay out sick leave. I wrote about Steve and James’s runaround for The American Prospect last week.

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“Even before the crisis began, Uber looked as if it was on its last leg. Since going public in May 2019, the company has hemorrhaged billions of dollars every quarter, propped up by investors such as the Saudi royal family and ousted chief executive and founder Travis Kalanick.”

Jia Tolentino wrote about the concept of mutual aid for The New Yorker and how the increase in popularity of such networks is itself an indictment of the failed U.S. state during the pandemic.

“Community itself is not a panacea for oppression,” Kaba told me. “And if you think that this work is like programming a microwave, where an input leads to immediate output, that’s capitalism speaking.” It will be a loss, Spade told me, if mutual aid becomes vacated of political meaning at the moment that it begins to enter the mainstream—if we lose sight of the fundamental premise that, within its framework, we meet one another’s needs not just to fix things in the moment but to identify and push back on the structures that make those needs so dire.