The European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs has announced that it will hold a hearing into Uber’s business practices, after Mark MacGann, a former senior executive at Uber, disclosed more than 124,000 documents to The Guardian and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in July 2022.
The hearing – titled “The Uber files, lobbying and workers’ rights” – will take place on October 25th, 2022 and will include live testimony from MacGann, who is being supported in his whistleblowing journey by The Signals Network.
MacGann served as Uber’s Head of Public Policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa from 2014-2016. During that time, he oversaw the ride-sharing platform’s efforts to push into European, African and Middle Eastern markets, often to the detriment of drivers. The documents suggest the company practiced a policy of “weaponize[ing]” drivers, with the then CEO saying in response to encouraging Uber drivers to match taxi driver protests in Paris: “violence guarantees success.” In South Africa, a former manager of Uber operations briefed on management decisions, told the Washington Post that Uber knew requiring the drivers to accept cash would make them more vulnerable to robberies, yet they rolled out the policy anyway.
The emails, presentations and text messages contained in the Uber files cover the period from 2013-2017 and show the company carrying out a business plan that proved to gradually undermine drivers. As they entered a market, Uber would spend millions of dollars on lucrative incentives to attract new drivers, and then steadily raise its commission, depriving the drivers of income.
It’s because of this that MacGann went public. He feels like the company “sold people a lie” by telling them “drivers were going to benefit.”
“I regret being part of a group of people which massaged the facts to earn the trust of drivers, of consumers and of political elites,” MacGann said. “I should have shown more common sense and pushed harder to stop the craziness. It is my duty to [now] speak up and help governments and parliaments right some fundamental wrongs. Morally, I had no choice in the matter.”
In addition to the disclosures about drivers, the files also showed how Uber aggressively lobbied European governments for access, evaded police raids through use of a “kill switch” and used a fake app called “Greyball” to evade police.
The Signals Network is providing Mark with legal and advocacy support, as he strives to ensure the Uber files make a positive and lasting impact on the rights of platform workers and on policy-makers ability to regulate big tech.
The Signals Network is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides holistic and individualized support to selected whistleblowers who have shared public interest information, including legal, psychological, advocacy, and information security support.
You can read more about the Uber files via The Guardian and ICIJ websites.
Story By Jennifer Gibson, September 30, 2022