Smartphone app-based ride-share company Uber has been a controversial figure in Seattle for years. The company has been fighting its drivers' unionization efforts since last autumn. Additionally, in December, Uber Technologies CEO Travis Kallanick was among the executives tapped to be on President Donald Trump's economic advisory commission.
Today, The Stranger received this screenshot of an e-mail received by an Uber driver who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the company:
The driver wanted to draw attention to Uber's e-mail out of concern that they and other drivers could get deactivated from the app for driving with other companies, including Uber's biggest competitor, Lyft. They weren't sure if Uber's request was legal, either.
When reached for comment, representatives with the Washington State Attorney General's office and Seattle's City Attorney's office said they could not opine on the law. The King County Prosecutor's officer did not return calls for comment.
"At night, I have both apps on," said the driver, who also drives for Lyft. "If I get a request from Lyft for a ride that’s three minutes away and simultaneously a request for an Uber ride that’s 13 minutes away, I’m going with Lyft. I don’t get paid for those 13 minutes with Uber."
They continued: "If I turn this over, they [Uber] would see that, and that could lead to me being disciplined. I think it’s none of their business how much money I make with Lyft. If they paid me a little bit better or at least pay me for that travel time, maybe I'd be loyal."
When called for comment, Uber Seattle's communications manager Nathan Hambley told us that the company knows that its drivers work for other services. "Deactivating drivers for doing that is something we don't do," he said.
When asked what Uber would do with the drivers' pay statements, Hambley wrote in an e-mail that "competition means we have to demonstrate that Uber offers more stable, reliable opportunities to earn money than the alternatives. That’s what we are focused on: ensuring that Uber is the best experience for drivers."
Hambley also claimed that this is a practice Lyft has used as well. He sent us these screenshots:
The unnamed Uber driver, who said they'd also driven for Lyft for nearly two years, said they never received such a message from Lyft.
Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien, an advocate for Uber and Lyft driver's collective bargaining rights, said that Uber asking for this information from its drivers is "appalling" and that it's "a cutthroat tactic to see what [its competitors] are doing."
"I think pay stubs should be kept private. The world Uber is crafting for us should alarm us," said O'Brien."[But] drivers know what's best for them. There are drivers out there who might really need that $60."
He concluded: "They have a great technology...but they're doing stuff that should be appalling to all of us."
This post has been updated.