Few people would argue that ride sharing platforms rely on drivers to operate. But Uber maintains that its drivers aren't a central part of its business operations -- and that the company won't need to start classifying its workers as employees, regardless of what a new bill passed in California might say.
The passage of bill AB5, which further clarifies a 2018 California Supreme Court ruling that outlines a test used for employee classification, should theoretically have companies like Uber shaking in their boots. But according to Uber's top lawyer, its drivers will remain independent contractors -- meaning that they won't be given benefits and that the company can continue to shirk liability in a number of situations.
According to the 2018 ruling, workers are considered employees if they perform duties that are under a company's control; if the work they do is essential to the company's business; and if they do not have independent enterprises within that given trade. Interestingly, the company maintains that the drivers who pick up customers for Uber are somehow not integral to the organization's operations. According to chief legal officer for the company, the "drivers' work is outside the usual course of Uber's business, which is serving as a technology platform for several different types of digital marketplaces."
Whether anyone will buy that argument is a different story. Previously, Uber has noted that classifying their drivers as actual employees would completely change ride sharing as a whole, eliminating the flexibility of their current business model. They'd supposedly have to force shifts on drivers and hire fewer of them, along with restricting them from working during certain hours or in specific areas. Those claims have been debunked by California Labor Federation spokesperson Steve Smith, who pointed out to a local ABC news affiliate that there's nothing in the labor code that would prohibit driver flexibility and added that this line of thinking is nothing more than a "corporate scare tactic."
Furthermore, the company seems to want to have it both ways. Uber may protest that its drivers aren't an essential part of its business model, but the company also recently argued that its driver roster should be regarded as a closely guarded trade secret. Although over 85% of misappropriation cases involve the business partner or employee of a trade secret owner, this scenario played out a bit differently. When the leader of an academic project requested the names of Uber drivers from Chicago officials in 2018, the Freedom of Information Act request was denied on the grounds that releasing this information “would cause competitive harm specifically by allowing their competitors to target and 'poach' their drivers." A Loyola University Chicago business school assistant professor requested the information again this year, maintaining that the information should be publicly accessible considering that drivers are licensed by the city. And while the average citizen can easily look up taxi vehicles and their license holders, that same access is not granted for cases involving holders of ride hailing licenses.
According to documents acquired by Bloomberg, ride hailing companies are worried about drivers abandoning one platform for another; the potential for poaching would increase if those names became public, according to Uber, along with other safety liabilities. But -- depending on the state -- ride hailing companies cannot demand exclusivity from their drivers, as this is yet another point that would likely force Uber to reclassify their independent contractors as employees. That would make drivers "under the company's control," which falls in line with the first point of the bill recently passed in California. But judging by how important the identities of Uber drivers seem to be, many are skeptical that the company will be able to convince anyone that their role in the business structure is anything but essential.
Still, West is confident that Uber will win out in the end. In a conference call with media, the chief legal officer explained that they'd have no problem complying with the necessary criteria: "Just because the test is hard does not mean we will not be able to pass it. We continue to believe that drivers are properly classified as independent... We expect we will continue to respond to claims of misclassification in arbitration and in court, as necessary, just as we do now."
Back in 2016, ThreeSixty Group announced the acquisition of the FAO Schwarz brand from the pre-bankruptcy Toys "R" Us, quickly making plans to resurrect it into retail. 2017 presented an unfortunate almost-misstep, with FAO launching pop-ups in Bon-Ton Stores (including Carson Pirie Scott and Younkers, among others) just ahead of that company's collapse. A minor hiccup in the grand scheme, FAO Schwarz put on an impressive show at the 115th North American International Toy Fair in New York City back in February, having announced plans for a new flagship location in NYC, along with a partnership with Hudson Group to bring stores into airports across the country. Now we know where the first location will be, and appropriately - it's in New York's LaGuardia airport in the redesigned Terminal B.
The birth rates might be down, but contrary to what some might have you think - yes, people are still having babies... even Millennials. With the loss of Babies "R" Us during the Toys "R" Us collapse this past year, new parents looking for a spot to check out the latest in baby gear are finding that there may soon be more places to buy than ever before, and the latest is a bit of an unexpected one: JCPenney. The iconic retailer has had their own share of struggles with evolution over the past few years, but they're still working on it, this week announcing the opening of JCPenney Baby Shops in 500 stores.
As we enter August, I've now been writing about the collapse of Toys "R" Us (TRU) for 11 months - hard to imagine that last year at this time, the dominoes were just on the verge of tipping, as positive announcements like the launch of Spin Master's Rusty Rivets toys and the pending Force Friday II ahead of Star Wars: The Last Jedi were still taking place. Of course, by September things were looking bleak, and my "Toy Killer" feature about Bain Capital setting-up TRU to fail and fall - just as they did with KB Toys - was published just 12 days ahead of their filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection. The eventual motion for complete liquidation just six months later would be a surprise to many, but the fact that the process of shutting down the company and selling off its assets keeps getting drawn-out is one that continues to surprise and pour salt in the wounds of many. I still hold firm in my belief that certain parties at the top never had any real intention of allowing Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us to continue here in the United States, and now it appears as though by the time it's all said and done, even the names my hold little value. Once again, the Intellectual Property Auction that would allow buyers to purchase the IP assets of the company has been postponed - this time until October. For those playing along at home, the initial plans for the auction were outlined back in May with the original plan set for a June 18 action... postponed until August 6, and now delayed once again. With each passing day, the TRU brand loses more and more of its value, but life without Toys "R" Us isn't necessarily as bleak as some may have thought. In fact, the NPD Group reports that toy industry sales are up more than 7% so far in 2018 with double-digit increases in the sales of youth electronics and dolls. Still, the saga of Toys "R" Us continues, and as I said during my panel appearance at San Diego Comic-Con, it's like an L.O.L. Surprise Doll in that there's just more and more to discover as each layer is peeled back...
When I began writing about the collapse of Toys "R" Us last summer, I had no idea just how deep the rabbit hole would go. In fact, I had no intention of writing much beyond my initial concern, and even a few months in, I was still sharing some of the public-facing statements issued by the company - that it was "business as usual" during the "restructuring." But it wasn't business as usual, and we all know what ended up happening. It's the summer of 2018, and in the United States, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" us no longer exist. One of my most widely-shared articles was published back on March 27, and in addition to news that a group of vendors led by Crayola was gearing-up for a fight and alleging "irresponsible and potentially illegal behavior" by certain executives at Toys "R" Us, I raised another concern: that numerous charities would be taking a potentially devastating hit. This week, I received word that ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) and Good360 have stepped-up to face the challenge with the launch of TOYS FOR JOY. Even more surprising was that I was told that it was my writing that inspired the movement.
Americans love convenience: it's no surprise that this fondness for accessibility would work its way into our favorite restaurants. Florida has embraced this concept with open arms, following the lead of other states who have jumped on the bandwagon: using food halls.
But this is no cafeteria; these food halls have sprung up in major cities across the country, including the likes of Chicago, New York City, Detroit, Seattle, and even Chapel Hill in North Carolina.