Taxi companies and car service drivers have been fighting for survival against mobile phone app-driven "ride sharing/ride-hailing" businesses such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar. In Washington, D.C., a Teamsters local representing taxi drivers challenged legislation that authorized the operation in the city of Uber and Lyft. The Teamsters' efforts included a protest that involved several hundred cab drivers' blocking intersections in the center of the city. But to no avail: the City Council went ahead and approved the companies for operation.
Meanwhile, legal battles over regulation of Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar continue across the country. The companies claim that they are "just an app" that facilitates transactions between willing drivers and riders. But the basic business model, relying on drivers who are classified as independent contractors, is under assault on several fronts. Governments want to regulate and tax the businesses as taxi or limousine services.
In any event, the price of success for these upstarts is likely to be more regulation and more labor troubles. A Teamsters-affiliated group called the California App-Based Drivers Association has already launched a labor action against Uber to address allegedly low pay, unfair working terms, and passenger-to-driver harassment. The CADA drivers in Los Angeles struck in late October by turning off their apps for three hours. They were joined by Uber drivers in San Francisco (who themselves had struck in March 2013), New York City, and London, England. The London drivers have formed their own union as well.
If Uber is correct and its drivers really are independent contractors, then the U.S. drivers are not "employees" who can form a union with the protections available under the NLRA. But, as you might imagine, the independent contractor classification is under attack. Drivers for Uber have filed a class and collective action in federal court in San Francisco, alleging that they are misclassified and are entitled to compensation for various past and continuing wage payment violations.