Facing Regulatory Roadblocks, Uber Ramps Up Its Lobbying In California

by Chris Kirkham and Tracey Lien, Los Angeles Times

uber exec toys with car and cash


Uber now spends more on lobbyists in California than Wal-Mart, Bank of America or Wells Fargo.

And for good reason: The 6-year-old ride-hailing company needs powerful friends as it faces two serious regulatory challenges in the state — a move to reclassify its drivers as employees, not independent contractors, and a demand to turn over to state officials data on every Uber ride.

Those are only the latest public fights threatening to slow the firm’s lightning-quick international expansion. But the home-state problems pose a key test of Uber’s increasingly well-oiled political machine, whose spending on Sacramento lobbyists puts it in the top 3% of companies and organizations.

The stakes for Uber are high. Having to treat drivers like employees would pose huge costs and headaches for a company that says it only manages a smartphone app — and could dramatically affect the start-up’s estimated $40-billion valuation. Turning over troves of ride data could lead to even bigger headaches, opening the door to intense regulatory scrutiny of issues such as worker hours, traffic violations, accommodations for the disabled and service in impoverished neighborhoods.

A judge at the California Public Utilities Commission earlier this month ruled that Uber should be fined $7.3 million and its service in California be suspended until it hands over the trip data. Uber has resisted that demand for more than two years, since before the PUC passed regulations requiring the information.

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