Veena Dubal is a law professor at UC Hastings whose research focuses on the intersection of law, technology, and precarious work. We discuss how taxi work became precarious work as a result of de-unionization, de-regulation, and concerted efforts by transportation network companies to exploit workers.
Prop 22, the most expensive California ballot initiative in history, carves out app-based gig economy workers as a new employee class that lacks the benefits and protections that other workers in California get. Prop 22 also makes it more difficult for drivers and delivery workers to unionize. Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and other app-based services threatened their workers with lack of flexibility and job loss. They also spent more than $200M to persuade voters. The passage of Prop 22 is a significant loss for labor law, and copycat legislation in other states is already following.
The San Francisco chauffeurs’ union was powerful and effective because it had 100% participation from taxi drivers and built a strong collective identity for drivers. It even had a union hall! Unions negotiated fair contracts – wages and hours – and prevented oversaturation in the taxi market. For most of the 20th century, US taxi drivers were unionized. Today, most app-based drivers are completely atomized, lack tools to communicate with each other, and don’t see driving as a craft identity.
Laws and Regulations
Since the 1930s, taxi work was considered a public utility. In San Francisco, the Taxi Commission regulated fares and worker supply in order to ensure a living wage. Although the San Francisco Taxi Commission is disbanded, the Municipal Transportation Agency could again take up regulation and supply management. In addition, employment protection should be strengthened by including proper unemployment and work place insurance.
Find out more:
Veena Dubal is a law professor at UC Hastings. Her research focuses on the intersection of law, technology, and precarious work. Within this broad frame, she uses empirical methodologies and critical theory to understand (1) the impact of digital technologies and emerging legal frameworks on the lives of workers, (2) the co-constitutive influences of law and work on identity, and (3) the role of law and lawyers in solidarity movements.
Professor Dubal has been cited by the California Supreme Court, and her scholarship has been published in top-tier law review and peer-reviewed journals, including the California Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, Berkeley Journal of Empirical and Labor Law, and Perspectives on Politics. Based on over a decade of ethnographic and historical study, Professor Dubal is currently writing a manuscript on how five decades of shifting technologies and emergent regulatory regimes changed the everyday lives and work experiences of ride-hail drivers in San Francisco.
Professor Dubal joined the Hastings Faculty in 2015, after a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University (also her undergraduate alma mater). Prior to that, Professor Dubal received her J.D. and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, where she conducted an ethnography of the San Francisco taxi industry. The subject of her doctoral research arose from her work as a public interest attorney and Berkeley Law Foundation fellow at the Asian Law Caucus where she founded a taxi worker project and represented Muslim Americans in civil rights cases.
You can follow her on Twitter @veenadubal.
We’ve started a referral program! Refer us to your friends to get a free button or Moleskine notebook. Please use this link to get your personal referral code: https://refer.glow.fm/future-hindsight, which you can then forward to your friends.