Uber’s Not-Quite Union, Kickstarter’s Non-Negotiable Mission, and the FDA Reconsiders “Healthy”


Photo of Uber protest in Chicago: Scott L

Uber Agrees to a Not-Quite Union Deal
 You might use the term “guild” to describe how you collaborate in World of Warcraft; Uber is using it as a way to agree to some union benefits for its drivers without going full union. Fresh from settling a pair of class-action suits about driver status two weeks ago, the company has “blessed” the creation of the Independent Drivers Guild (NYT), which will cover 35,000 New York drivers and be associated with a regional branch of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union, while not being an actual union itself. The deal will last for five years and provides for regular labor/management meetings, an appeal process for rejected drivers, and opportunities to buy discounted benefits through the Guild. The deal does not, however, provide for collective bargaining or extend beyond New York City — and it prevents the Guild from trying to unionize drivers. (Meanwhile, another attempt to unionize Uber’s NYC drivers, via the Amalgamated Transit Union, remains underway.) It’s been more than a year since Uber started making a big deal of extending various olive branches to drivers, riders, and municipalities, but this halfway move and its let-us-play-by-our-own-rules-or-we’re-outta-here approach in Austin (which we covered earlier this week) suggests that the company is still figuring out when it’s best to obey the speed limit and when it should stick to its original approach: pedal to the floor.

Kickstarter’s Mission Is Non-Negotiable
 In this week’s column, NewCo’s founder and editor in chief notes that many businesses have awesome mission statements that they ignore. But if Kickstarter doesn’t live up to its mission statement, it could wind up in court.

What Is Healthy?
 The FDA admits it doesn’t know (Chicago Tribune). It’s going to re-evaluate its definition of “healthy” in packaging and other product claims, taking into account recent studies on sugar, salt, and calories. Indeed, the word “science” was used a lot in the announcement and the coverage of it; we hope that means this re-evaluation will be about facts, not trends. For example, is a Kind bar “healthy,” as its packaging claims? It’s full of protein — but also saturated fat. There are plenty of inconsistencies: as Kind noted when the FDA brought up all that saturated fat, “the FDA’s rules prevent avocados and salmon from being labeled healthy, while allowing the term for fat-free puddings and sugary cereals.” Right now the FDA permits use of the word to reflect “corporate philosophy,” not the nutritional value of the product in question. That makes no sense and that’s why the FDA’s move this week does.

Germany’s Unexpected Energy Surplus
 Yesterday in The Daily, we noted that Bhutan has become the first carbon-positive country. Today we learn that, over the weekend, Germany had so much renewable energy (for one day anyway) that it had to pay people to use electricity (Quartz).

What Businesses Shifting Profits Overseas Costs the U.S.
 Every day there seems to be another story about a prominent business sneaking its domestic profits overseas for tax reasons. How much does it add up to? $100 billion a year (Washington Post), according to a Reed College estimate. Kimberly A. Clausing, an economics professor at Reed, says inversions, which get most of the attention, are “just the tip of the iceberg.” The full report argues that features of the current tax system actually encourage all sorts of profit-shifting, not just those built around tax-advantaged purchases.

It’s Safe To Wipe That Smile Off Your Face
 Pacific Standard reports that a new ruling from the National Labor Relations Board prevents companies from mandating employees from being positive at work. There are plenty of benefits to a positive work environment, of course, but companies can’t force you to smile. They have to work to make you happy, not simply expect it.

Photo of Uber protest in Chicago: Scott L

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