International locations world wide are wrestling with whether or not to categorise Uber drivers and different gig economic system staff as unbiased contractors or staff.
However when Uber first got here on the scene, the first topic of debate was whether or not its drivers had been, the truth is, taxi drivers. Why was this ride-sharing or ride-hailing app run by a tech agency additionally making use of to be a taxi firm? Was Uber really “the identical as a taxi, however totally different?”
We’ve studied how Uber and taxi drivers have been affected by Uber’s categorization as a expertise firm. As organizational and administration researchers at enterprise colleges from throughout Canada learning stigma, marginalization and inequality in addition to entrepreneurship, innovation and expertise, we turned very fascinated by Uber’s entry into the taxi business as we watched it unfold.
In Toronto, Uber was ultimately legalized in 2016 after “months of protest and turmoil” and years of debate whereas it operated illegally.
However after we started learning Uber’s entry into Toronto, we seen one thing regarding. There was growing reward within the media for Uber and Uber drivers, however criticism and near-contempt for taxis and taxi drivers.
How had been two teams of individuals doing the identical work daily — driving different individuals to their desired locations — being perceived so in a different way? As one Uber driver advised us in an interview: “I don’t see the distinction … there isn’t a distinction between one another.” However it appeared the media and Uber disagreed.
Taxi driving as a stigmatized occupation
Toronto is dwelling to the most important taxi driver inhabitants within the nation with greater than 10,000 drivers, over 80 per cent of them immigrants. Sadly, taxi drivers in Toronto have traditionally confronted racism, classism and stigma. Extra broadly, taxi driving has additionally been known as “soiled work.”
The work of late Canadian-born sociologist Erving Goffman and subsequent analysis have proven that stigma transfers by affiliation. This may recommend that Uber drivers would develop into stigmatized by advantage of getting into the sphere of driving, simply as taxi drivers are. However we didn’t see this occur for Uber drivers.
To make sense of this, we performed an in-depth case examine of Uber’s entry and growth into Toronto from 2013 to 2016. We analyzed 976 media articles and performed 55 interviews after strolling the streets of Toronto and ordering Ubers to search out actual drivers.
We additionally performed observations at protests, panel discussions and metropolis corridor conferences to higher perceive what was occurring on the bottom.
Primarily based on this information, we wrote and printed an open-access article within the Journal of Administration Research, the place we argue that new entrants to a stigmatized occupation can really deflect stigma. However how does this occur?
Ambiguity and distinction
Uber’s perceived categorical ambiguity — as seen within the surge of debates over learn how to label Uber and its drivers — paved a path to distinguish Uber drivers from taxi drivers by two actions.
First, Uber spokespeople, public officers and media created a categorical distinction by pointing to expertise to clarify why “Uber will not be a taxi firm.”
Second, they highlighted variations between the perceived identities of Uber drivers and taxi drivers, typically emphasizing that Uber drivers had been driving short-term and part-time. But, this didn’t essentially replicate actuality. As one Uber driver advised us in an interview:
“I begin at 7 a.m. and I end at 7 p.m. Twelve hours. I attempt to work Monday to Friday as a result of I’ve household and I’ve one daughter.… I wish to benefit from the summer season, however generally I work on Saturday at evening.”
Worsening stigma for taxi drivers
These categorical distinctions and perceived variations in identities helped Uber drivers deflect the stigma of taxi driving, regardless of many Uber drivers even acknowledging they did the identical factor as their taxi counterparts.
In the meantime, the stigma going through taxi drivers bought worse. As distinctions and variations circulated within the media, they had been accompanied by remarks anchored in prejudice tied to the social, ethical and bodily traits of taxi drivers.
These remarks degraded taxi drivers to the good thing about Uber drivers, typically emphasizing and juxtaposing the immigrant standing, languages, hygiene and dealing situations of taxi drivers in comparison with Uber drivers. Media protection additionally typically emphasised taxi business options that had been mandated and controlled by the town, and never taxi drivers themselves.
The media reported on the comfort of the brand new Uber app and its computerized bank card cost course of, despite the fact that Uber was working illegally — and as a number of taxi firms launched their very own apps to “assist riders commute hassle-free.”
By the point Uber was legalized as a “non-public transportation firm” and the distinctions between Uber drivers and taxi drivers had been formalized, it wasn’t simply that taxi drivers confronted financial hardships. In addition they argued there was a “two-tier system,” and Uber drivers and taxi drivers turned polarized within the media.
One taxi driver advised us:
“It’s actually severely marginalizing my existence.… I really feel like I’m coming to the bitter finish. I really feel like that man within the orange jumpsuit who’s on his knees and a man from ISIS is standing over me, besides the man within the black go well with there may be an Uber man with a machete in his hand.”
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Uber’s entry into Toronto divided an occupation and exacerbated the social and financial hardships of taxi drivers. And it began with how Uber and Uber drivers had been categorized.
It’s encouraging that Uber drivers didn’t face the identical stigma as taxi drivers. Nonetheless, it’s disheartening that it prevented that destiny at the price of taxi drivers.