The Real News

Murray Horton — longtime activist for Aotearoa

NOT JUST A FEW BAD APPLES — Uber and company

By Murray Horton — political activist and writer since 1969. He is the Organiser for the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) and the Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC). 

On rare occasions, the misdeeds of specific transnational corporations (and sometimes of the individuals owning and/or controlling them) make it into the mainstream media – which is itself owned by transnationals or local Big Business. The current such “bad apple” is Uber, which has been the subject of critical cover stories in both the Listener and Time very recently.

Uber is one of the most high profile of the multi-billion dollar American technology behemoths which head what is labelled the “disruptive” economy, or more ludicrously, the “sharing” economy (in Uber’s case, a smartphone app enabling ride sharing for payment in private cars).

Funnily enough, it doesn’t seem to involve sharing the profits or the power. And like all such US technology companies, it is owned and operated by people called “libertarians” (I used to be a libertarian once.

A stolen title,too !

That was what anarchists were called in the 1960s when I started out as a political activist. This is a perfect example of how the Right steals and perverts the language of politics).

Uber’s corporate crimes have been to systematically rip off and exploit its own drivers and to ignore or ride roughshod over the laws of every country in which it operates, including New Zealand.

Uber came a close third in the 2016 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating In Aotearoa/New

The Roger Award — given annually to the worst transnationals

Zealand (first and second were insurance transnationals – Youi and IAG/State Insurance). Here is what Sue Bradford, the Roger Award’s Chief Judge, wrote:

“Youi and Uber are very similar. They don’t care about breaking the law. They just carry on abusing legal niceties and workers because they have had so much money poured into them. They are part of the new face of global capitalism taken to state-of-the-art levels of local illegality.

Uber is bent on destroying an entire industry (taxis) and the livelihoods supported by it. There seems to be a mentality that if a company develops a bright new cutting-edge app, everything else is forgiven – the exploitation of workers, defying health and safety standards, placing your company outside the law and wiping out the jobs of others.

Youi likewise seems unrepentant despite court cases and fines for its outrageous rip off of customers and potential customers. For sheer cheekiness and disregard for the law Uber and Youi are up there” (you can read the full 2016 Roger Award Judges’ Report at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/pdf/roger-award-2016-judges-report.pdf).

Not just a few bad apples

But I need to clarify one aspect – I don’t want to give the impression that if “a few bad apples” cleaned up their act (or went out of business), then all would be well.

No, capitalism is a system which is both inherently unstable and criminal; a system which carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. I don’t subscribe to the view that capitalism will collapse of its own accord and, thus far, the facts have borne that out.

Globally, the criminals responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis (i.e. the bankers) have gone straight back to their life of crime, leaving the peoples of the world to pay their bills and suffer the consequences of their criminality. It is a culture of impunity.

Highlighting the crimes of the most egregious transnationals, such as Uber, Youi, IAG/State Insurance (and any other corporate criminals you care to name) is good insofar as they provide examples, but it’s the system itself that needs dealing to: capitalism, which should be called for what it is – organised crime.

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Editor’s note: the web address for CAFCA is: www.cafca.org.nz); 

for ABC: www.converge.org.nz/abc)