Uber has long been notorious for its hard-knuckled business practices, but these days the company is trying to sound like the reasonable compromiser. On Monday, for example, the New York Times published an op-ed from Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi responding to criticisms that gig-economy companies fail the workers on their platforms. While maintaining Uber’s usual argument—that turning independent contractors into employees would deprive them of the freedom to work however much they want—Khosrowshahi offers what he frames as a third way: new state laws that would require companies like Uber to establish benefit funds for workers, but not formalize their employment.
Uber isn’t just fighting to maintain its business model on op-ed pages, however. The magnanimous, levelheaded tone of Khosrowshahi’s piece belies the combativeness of the campaign Uber has funded to resist a landmark California law that would require the company to grant employee benefits and protections to its drivers. That was underscored in an incident last week. A group formed by Uber and several of its industry peers has recently taken to targeting a law professor on Twitter over her efforts to get their workers classified as employees. The Twitter account for Yes on 22, a committee dedicated to promoting the California Proposition 22 ballot measure that would keep some gig workers as independent contractors, encouraged users to post screenshots of notifications that they had been blocked by University of California–Hastings law professor Veena Dubal. The account subsequently retweeted screenshots from users who purported to be gig drivers.