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Uber deal shows divide in labor's drive for role in 'gig economy'

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Bob Sun

REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Daniel Wiessner and Dan Levine

Reuters - The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers trumpeted an agreement reached earlier this month to represent New York Uber drivers, saying it "gives organized labor an opportunity to shape the new economy in a way that supports and values workers and their families."

Under the terms of its agreement with Uber Technologies Inc UBER.UL , the Machinists will form an Independent Drivers Guild that will be able to intervene with the company on behalf of wrongly terminated drivers and negotiate for benefits, such as disability insurance and roadside assistance.

She said her organization had been in talks with the Machinists about collaborating on a driver unionization campaign before the agreement with Uber.

But contract workers are not entitled to the same legal protections employees enjoy, including minimum wage guarantees and overtime pay.

Last month, the SEIU drew flack from another union, Unite Here, for negotiating with internet-based home rental company Airbnb Inc to encourage its hosts to hire union-approved house cleaners who would make at least $15 an hour.

Seth Harris, a Washington D.C. lawyer who was deputy U.S. labor secretary from 2009 to 2013, said both unions and companies like Uber are formulating strategies for the new labor market in the face of outmoded labor and antitrust laws that restrict their options.

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