GROWING PAINS

Uber is offering free rides to a protest against a proposed crackdown on New York City car services

Uber is pulling out the stops to fight a New York City bill that would cap the number of drivers it can employ. Mobilizing its users to “Save Uber as you know it in NYC,” the company said in an email to customers that it would offer a free ride to anyone using its UberPool carpooling service to go to a protest tomorrow morning (June 30) at City Hall in lower Manhattan:

We need your help. Mayor de Blasio is supporting a bill that would stop thousands of new drivers from joining the Uber platform. This bill would destroy 10,000 job opportunities for New Yorkers in just one year, and result in longer wait times, higher prices and less reliable service for riders.

The bill would cap the number of cars that large car services like Uber can add. According to the New York Post, bases with more than 500 drivers would be limited to a 1% increase each year; Uber has about 26,000 drivers in the city.

Since 2011, when Uber began operating in New York, the city has seen an increase of about 25,000 car-service drivers, which proponents of the law say has made the city’s notorious traffic even worse and caused an increase in polluting auto emissions.

Uber’s aggressive, worldwide expansion has been met with opposition in many cities around the world. Two of its senior executives in Paris were taken into police custody for questioning today (June 29) as the government investigates whether Uber violated labor laws. Striking taxi drivers in Paris lit fires and overturned Uber cars during a violent protest last week.

Uber’s lobbying efforts have also drawn attention, from its hiring last year of (the since-replaced) David Plouffe, a former adviser to US president Barack Obama, to the company’s rise in Portland, Oregon, catalogued in a lengthy Bloomberg Businessweek feature entitled, “This is How Uber Takes Over a City.”

The company’s stance toward political protests has been somewhat mixed. It has been quick to mobilize its users when its service has come under attack. But earlier this month in China, the company sent a stern warning to its drivers saying it does not condone public demonstrations, after hundreds of drivers blocked traffic to protest the arrest of one of their colleagues. “We firmly oppose any form of gathering or protest, and we encourage a more rational form of communication for solving problems,” an Uber China spokeswoman told Quartz then.

The June 30 protest in New York is scheduled for noon local time. Uber says its carpool rides to and from City Hall will be free from 10:30 am to 2:30pm.

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