Uber board member and former White House advisor David Plouffe today said that Uber’s scale isn’t appreciated, touting that the company has created more jobs than any other firm on the planet.
Plouffe, who managed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign before joining Uber and climbing to chief advisor, told a room of journalists at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco yesterday that Uber has provided work for tens of thousands of people in more than 330 cities across more than 60 countries.
In London there are over 20,000 drivers on the Uber platform. In L.A there are 40,000 people. In Chicago and Illinois there are over 25,000. In Paris there are over 10,000.
“The scale of what we're talking about here is not properly appreciated,” he said. “There's no other company in the world that has been responsible for that much work in the last two or three years.
“I come from the political world,” continued Plouffe. “Everyone in politics or government is trying to deal with how do we get more jobs. Just as importantly is how do we create more income growth at a time when wages in most countries are fairly stagnant?
"On the economic side, we have drivers all over the world joining the platform every day. They’re hungry to do it. Why is that? Because they might have lost their job or they might be looking for work. Some of those people may drive 40-50 hours a week but most people use it to supplement their income and do five to six hours a week.”
But a growing number of Uber drivers that try to make their living from the platform are upset with the relatively low wages that they earn.
Uber currently takes 20 percent commission for every ride that is facilitated over its platform, which means drivers are often left earning close to the minimum wage.
One Uber X driver in San Francisco told me over the weekend that he’s struggling to make earns meet after he’s paid for petrol and factored in the maintenance costs of the Toyota Prius he owns.
The driver, who wished to remain anonymous, said Uber should only take 10 percent commission or he “might as well be flipping burgers” for a living.
The reason he and many others like him carry on working over Uber is because it offers more flexibility than a traditional job. Uber drivers essentially choose when and where they want to work and how long for.
Another Uber taxi driver based in LA said: "It’s true, Uber is creating thousands of new jobs, but they're really just replenishing the void they helped create when they put many taxicab and limousine drivers out of work - one could argue, so it's all cyclical, with strong economic implications to consider."
Plouffe said people wouldn’t be signing up as Uber drivers in their droves if they weren’t making money.
“People would not drive on the platform if they weren’t having a good experience,” he said. “Given the demand to drive on the platform, people are finding it to be a very good economic experience and they’re telling others to try it.
“Many people drive for multiple apps,” he added. “Taxi, Uber, Lyft, Shuttle. That’s great because we want drivers to have a good economic experience. They’re going to make more money, it’s working for them.”
The Uber driver I spoke to said he’s thinking about trying to encourage a large number of drivers across the San Francisco Bay Area to boycott the Uber platform until the company, now worth over $50 billion, increases their wages. How successful such a stunt would be remains to be seen.
The relationship that Uber has with its drivers goes beyond wages.
Uber likes to think of its drivers as individual entrepreneurs, or contractors, allowing it to take very little responsibility for them.
But some Uber drivers argue that Uber should treat them more like actual employees, with one driver in California recently taking his case to court and winning. Other cases are under appeal.
Plouffe admitted that Uber needs to work more closely with politicians as it expands into new territories like China.