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Mark Markovich

Uber fucked up this weekend. But also, hey, reminder: Uber's been fucking up for a long time, particularly in Portland.

Taking a spin through the Mercury's news archives reveals that Uber has prided itself on providing cheap, convenient rides—and also that Uber has been relentlessly exploitative and underhanded by repeatedly violating regulations, refusing to provide equal services, and denying worker protections. Buckle up.

"Uber Brings Ride-Sharing to Portland Without Permission; Novick Threatens Hefty Fines" [Blogtown, Dec 5, 2014]:

Reports are coming in, citing Uber officials, that the company is... launching its service in Portland over the objections of city officials. In a statement issued a few minutes ago, the Portland Bureau of Transportation reacted to those reports, by accusing Uber of preparing to "start offering taxi service in Portland illegally on Friday night." And Novick, in that statement, has promised to level "civil and criminal penalties against Uber and its drivers for operating without required permits and inspections." ...Uber's prices "surge" during peak hours, which can sometimes surprise riders (like a woman who paid almost $400 for a ride on Halloween). Their drivers also are largely unregulated, at least compared to taxis and licensed towncar operators. The company's also battling labor and PR issues.

"The City of Portland Has Already Sued Uber" [Blogtown, Dec 8, 2014]:

If you're one of those cheering because Uber breached Portland, maybe get that ride while you can. The City of Portland this afternoon asked a Multnomah County judge to put the brakes on the ride-share company's nascent operations here, arguing the popular service is contravening more than 20 rules and regulations, and may be putting its passengers at risk as a result.

"Here's What Needs to Happen Before You Uber" [Blogtown, April 22, 2015]:

It's only barely an exaggeration to say Commissioner Nick Fish might have been the most anti-Uber person in the room. Again and again, he eluded to the company being a bully and bad actor—the transportation version of Wal-Mart, which Portland City Council has elected in the past not to give much of a foothold in Portland. Fish even launched into an entire series of questions to a Lyft representative aimed solely at rehashing Uber's lawless entry into Portland last year. And with his 'no' vote on the resolution, Fish spent much of his remarks on chastising the company.

"I’m not anti ride-share, but I don't like bullies," Fish said. "I don’t care for people or businesses who act like the rules don’t apply to them."

"Getting Nowhere Fast: Portland's Wheelchair Users Still Waiting for Equal Access" [News, May 27, 2015]:

Uber's arrival last month began a new era in how Portlanders get around, but it's also highlighted a systemic problem within the private for-hire transportation industry: failure to provide equal service to clients who require specially equipped vehicles.

That's not getting any better, despite pledges from Uber and Lyft to serve Portland's non-ambulatory customers at the same level as everyone else.

"Bad News for Uber: It Might Have to Treat Its Oregon Drivers as Employees" [Blogtown, Oct 14, 2015]:

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian's office has said in recent months he hadn't formed an opinion on whether drivers for Uber amount to employees rather than contractors—a designation that would make the multi-billion company liable to give them a minimum wage, unemployment and workers' comp benefits, and other protections....

Nevertheless, Avakian unleashed an abrupt warning shot to Uber (and by extension its competitor Lyft) suggesting BOLI would find in favor of any driver who complained they weren't getting adequate protections.

"Uber and Lyft Have Quickly Overtaken Portland Cab Companies" [Blogtown, Oct 19, 2015]:

Since the company gained formal entree into the city in late April, Uber and its rival, Lyft, have snatched the bulk of "for-hire" transportation from the city's longtime cab companies, according to new data released by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). Those numbers come from data-sharing agreements the city inked with cab companies and "Transportation Network Companies" (TNCs) Uber and Lyft early in the year.

According to city data, TNCs quickly swiped market share from the city's seven existing cab companies (an eighth has since emerged), winning 60 percent of business in August. Over the course of the pilot period, cab companies saw a 16 percent drop in business, the city found. At the same time, though, demand for cabs and TNCs shot up by 40 percent between May and late August.

"In Other News: Asshole Sharks, and a Public Records Fight" [News, Oct 12, 2016]:

Uber and Lyft really don’t like people knowing much about how they operate. So of course they really don’t want the City of Portland to comply with the district attorney’s order to release records on how they operate to the Oregonian.

O reporter Elliot Njus filed a public records request in May for data the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) receives from Uber, Lyft, and local taxi companies. Njus was hoping to find out the number of cars each company uses, the number of rides they provide, and how many of their vehicles are wheelchair accessible.

In June, the city denied the request, saying those details are “trade secrets.” But Njus appealed to District Attorney Rod Underhill’s office, which determined the records should be released because there’s a legitimate public interest in them. Uber and Lyft promptly challenged the order in court.

Releasing Uber’s data would “substantially and irreparably harm” the company, its lawyers wrote (wrongly).

"Uber Flouted Portland Lobbying Rules, Will Be Fined $2,000" [Blogtown, Jan 5, 2016]:

Portland City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero announced today that she's levying a fine of $2,000 against the company, stemming from its failure to report a lobbying arrangement with prominent political consultant Mark Wiener. An investigation by the auditor's office determined not only that Uber had failed to adequately report its affiliation with Wiener—who helped both Novick and Hales win office—but showed general "disregard for the Portland community."

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