Not Just Along for the Ride: Work, Justice, and Municipal Regulation of Ridehailing Platforms
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Digital platforms are a package of information and communications technologies that bring together buyers and sellers onto proprietary markets. These platforms have come to dominate services like for-hire vehicles that are some of the most emblematic of city life. However, the rise of ridehailing platform like Uber has been accompanied with a loss of power for workers who make a living providing these services. This is a concern for cities, which have traditionally regulated this service to maintain trust between drivers, passengers, and market facilitators. Where conditions for workers decline and trust is damaged, it could lead to a decline in the service altogether. This study asks what role municipalities can play to improve conditions for workers. A growing literature documents the regulation of ridehailing platforms in global cities particularly as they grapple with regulatory change. Yet, few studies have captured the diverse range of municipalities that regulate the service or examined these regulatory systems once in place. To help fill this gap, this study surveys a diverse range of cities and towns that regulate ridehailing in a nested qualitative case study within the Greater Golden Horseshoe of Ontario, Canada. The study documents the conditions faced by drivers and measures those conditions against a standard of justice based upon Fainstein’s Just City theory. In Fainstein’s work, justice is a movement over time towards greater democracy, diversity and equity expressed in the capabilities of the most marginalized groups. In this study, an assessment of justice in ridehailing platforms is conducted through the analysis of semi-structured interviews with drivers in the GGH region. Interviews are transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis to identify important themes and concepts facing the drivers. The thesis next examines the current municipal regulatory system applied to ridehailing platforms and the perspective of municipal representatives within the GGH region who fashioned that system. Content analyses of local GGH region media reports, and municipal documents describe relevant events and regulatory strategies across the GGH region. Semi-structured interviews are then conducted with staff and councillors from municipalities with regulations for ridehailing platforms. Together these methods are analyzed to describe the rationale for regulation in the context of challenges facing the ridehailing system. The study continues with an examination of the current strategies employed by drivers to improve their own conditions to determine if there is a role for municipalities to support drivers. The study examines the potential of workforce development programs and their applicability to platform drivers. Interview analyses of drivers within the GGH region are compared against accounts described in videos produced by platform drivers across English North America and posted online in video diaries (vlogs). These two groups of data are then compared to understand how drivers are currently empowered and the barriers they face when trying to improve their own circumstances. The thesis contributes to the conceptual understanding of vehicle-for-hire services, the role of cities in that service and the nature of justice for platform drivers. The study finds that the erosion of municipal regulations over for-hire vehicles in the region is largely due to a choice by municipalities not to extend regulations over ridehailing platforms. This choice is attributed to an understanding of the industry as a private market where regulation should be minimized. For policy makers seeking to extend justice to platform drivers, the thesis calls for municipalities to expand the tools of oversight and create mechanisms for workers to direct changes to the structure of vehicle-for-hire services.
Cite this version of the work
Jonathan Woodside (2022). Not Just Along for the Ride: Work, Justice, and Municipal Regulation of Ridehailing Platforms. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/18436