This morning's Fizz had the news that Uber "deactivated" the account of Uber driver Takele Gobena. The Uber move appeared to be retaliation for union activism: Gobena spoke at city council member Mike O'Brien's press conference yesterday morning in support of a new O'Brien proposal to permit ride share drivers to unionize. Gobena's account was canceled early in the evening.
At O'Brien's press conference, Gobena detailed how he was only earning $2.64 an hour after making all the required payments and investments in his contract, such as covering gas.
Uber tried to challenge the story that they had canceled Gobena's account in retaliation for his stand on labor issues. Spokeswoman Kate Downen says Gobena had received several text reminders in the past week about renewing his insurance, and yesterday, the final text, she says, deactivated his account because his insurance had expired, and he was no longer in compliance with city regulations. Downen said Uber's database shows that Gobena subsequently went online and updated his account; she points out that their records also show he accepted a ride last night after his account had been updated—proof that the company hadn't blacklisted him. She says Gobena canceled the trip.
Gobena says the deactivation "has nothing to do with insurance." And he disputes Uber's claim that he'd received any notices about insurance in the runup to yesterday's Dear John text, pointing out that his insurance is up to date. He says he paid for his current policy in mid June and it doesn't expire until late December. He provided me with documentation of his current insurance.
Gobena, who has worked for Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar for about a year and half, says he alerted Teamsters Local 117 when he got the alarming text last night at around 6:15 and was reactivated at about 9 o'clock without updating his account in any way. He says he received a request for a ride, but the client canceled. I have a call in to the union.
Asked if he believed Uber was retaliating against him for speaking in favor of unionization, Gobena says: "Of course. Definitely." He said he's decided to stay with the company because he wants to see O'Brien's legislation through, "so we will have a voice."