“No office, no boss” — this phrase appears as a promotional slogan on the website for UberUP, Uber’s urban partnership that launched in New Haven over the summer.
Uber launched the program in conjunction with the Greater New Haven NAACP and the Workforce Alliance of New Haven, a job-training and outreach organization. The program seeks to hire people who live in urban areas and who have a difficult time finding a job in their city. Since Uber introduced the program — which includes local events, skill-building courses and information sessions — Uber drivers and local workforce programs alike have praised the initiative for its entrepreneur-based approach to job pairing.
“We were happy to let our program participants know about Uber, and learn about the opportunities for self employment,” said Tom Long, vice president of communications for The WorkPlace New Haven.
The WorkPlace, a job training and educational facility, worked in conjunction with the Workforce Alliance of New Haven to hold a promotional event to spread word about the program upon its entrance into the city in late June. Following the event, The WorkPlace has distributed information about UberUP on social media.
The program’s launch in the Elm City is part of a larger citywide effort to combat chronic unemployment in the city. In December 2014, the NAACP’s Greater New Haven branch, the Workforce Alliance and DataHaven compiled a document which concluded that transportation barriers are a major contributor the city’s high unemployment rate.
“When you can’t find or afford transportation to a job interview, job training or place of work, you give it up for a while,” the document states. “This cycle is hard to break, and frequently moves from one generation to the next, creating a downward spiral of long-term unemployment, poverty and despair.”
Matt Powers, the general manager of Uber Connecticut, said Uber is enthusiastic about serving fringe areas of urban environments, where public transportation is less readily available. He added that he believes the entrepreneurial spirit of Uber was what attracted and has helped sustain the NAACP as a partner for the program.
The local NAACP branch could not be reached for comment.
“We help drive economic development for people who have a hard time finding full-time employment,” said Powers. “Transportation is often cited as the number one issue for people seeking jobs.”
The program, whose website boasts an opportunity to “make it easy to earn” and “put life first,” operates by hiring employees as independent contractors. Technically, Powers said, Uber does not employ any of its drivers.
An Uber driver in New Haven, who has been working for the company for four months and asked to remain anonymous because he does not have permission to speak to the press, said he picked up Uber as a “part-part time” job after failing to find a full-time position in IT. He said that after Uber takes 40 percent of his earnings and he deducts the costs of car maintenance and gas, his pay ends up averaging around minimum wage. He added that he is confident in the company’s partnership with city programs.
“Uber has always been great worldwide,” he said. “It’s helping people make money where there are big gaps.”
UberUP serves several different cities on the East Coast of the United States, including Baltimore, Boston, Pittsburgh and Raleigh.