If Uber’s climb to fame had not been chronicled at every turn by ever-more worrisome reports of overreach, it might have been impossible to believe even as fiction. The quasi-legal taxi company (which presumably still misclassifies a large number of drivers) belied a poisonous boys club working atmosphere in which taking any shortcut to go ahead was the norm, including purposefully fooling cops.
Some of those things, we told, have since changed. Whatever else might say about the company’s first CEO, Travis Kalanick, it was not short on wickedness. That, incidentally, is the kind of stuff that makes for terrific television.
Super Pumped, based on the same-named book by New York Times reporter Mike Isaac, puts Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the shoes of Kalanick, following the taxi-hailing app on its relentless path to (and I don’t think I’m giving anything away here) widespread success, a vehement public backlash, and Kalanick’s eventual departure.
As venture investor Bill Gurley, Kyle Chandler appears ready to play the foil, while Uma Thurman as Arianna Huffington makes an unexpected entrance in the trailer. The anthology series will premiere on February 27, with each season focusing on a different corporate leader. There is no word yet on which firms will be featured after this portrayal of Uber, but the world is certainly not lacking of harsh, competitive CEOs.
Uber is still doing everything it can to avoid the ramifications of California’s new independent contractor law, most likely working its developers to the bone to roll out product features that are designed to create flimsy legal defenses against an increasingly indefensible business model, rather than to improve the driver or rider experience. You would think there would be a simpler solution. For those who haven’t been following the slow drip of labor-circle news about AB5, which I presume is most people, the law establishes a tighter criteria for establishing whether a contractor is actually free of control over the firm, company, or platform that pays them.
Contrary to popular belief, it does not forbid contracting right away, nor does it automatically enlist workers in a union. To some extent, the country’s outdated labor laws and the multitude of carve-outs in AB5 make such mischaracterizations unavoidable; on the other hand, Uber and other “gig economy” companies appear bent on spreading, or at the very least failing to address, misinformation that benefits them.
They are doing it while suing California for enacting the law, which they claim is “irrational and unlawful.” Keep in mind that AB5 is only a step up from what was previously the letter of the law, as determined by a California Supreme Court judgement nearly two years ago. To further complicate matters, Uber has made it a priority to offer features to its app that is only available to users in California, in order to disprove that the firm is in any way regulating the course of work for its drivers. If you can believe it, Uber sees itself as a platform that connects drivers and riders, not as a taxi firm.