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Will these bills bring ridesharing giants Uber and Lyft back to Austin?

(AUSTIN BUSINESS NEWS) Two new State Senate bills could pave the way for ridesharing to return to Austin, but more action, as well as public input, is needed to really make it happen.

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Are we getting back together?

Uber and Lyft might return to our city, and our hearts, soon.

Two new State Senate bills could pave the way for Uber and Lyft to return to Austin, but more action, as well as public input, is needed to really make it happen.

When Lyft and Uber broke up with us, it was sudden and upsetting. It was not a gradual we-all-knew-this-was-coming break up, it was the all-your-stuff-is-on-the-porch-and-I’ve-changed-my-phone-number kind of break up.

We’d had fights, sure. There were very public arguments. But Austin just didn’t feel the same without the friendly faces of ride sharing. Now, new policy proposals might suggest a path to reconciliation.

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Where did it all go wrong?

As most Austin residents will recall, in May of this year the City Council passed an ordinance requiring ride share companies, like Uber and Lyft, to obtain fingerprint-based background checks for every potential driver. This was the first line in the sand, and led to activist groups petitioning, successfully, for public vote on an addendum to the Proposition 1.

The addendum stated that, while background checks would need to be implemented, the companies could use their own, already-in-place third-party methods to do it. The companies said these checks were enough to ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers.

But the city voted against the addendum, 56 to 42, and a lot of people have different ideas as to why. Some voters were upset that Uber and Lyft launched expensive ad campaigns asking people to support them in the polls instead of using those budgets to comply with the city. In any case, what happened next left a lot of heads spinning.

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Don’t go breaking my heart

Uber and Lyft tore out of the city overnight, a move they had pulled before. Along with all of our broken hearts, this move left about 10,000 drivers out of work. The DUI rate, which had dropped by 12 percent when the companies moved in, jumped back up 7.5 percent in the first few weeks after the Uberpocalypse.

Other rideshare companies (like non-profit Ride Austin), and loosely organized groups, have tried to fill the void with varying success. Uber indicated they had been doing some thinking and maybe they still wanted to be friends. But not much changed as we all adjusted to life without easy accessible ride sharing at our fingertips

“Hey, can we talk?”

Yesterday, two new State Senate bills were filled that could change everything. Don Huggines (R-Dallas) filed Bill 113 that will “introduce sweeping changes to the municipalities and the entire ride-for-hire industry,” according to a press release.

In a related move, Charles Schwetner (R-Georgetown) proposed Bill 176, which would put ride sharing regulation at the state level instead of leaving it up to individual municipalities. According to the Senator, this would allow Uber and Lyft a more friendly regulatory environment.

The bills allow for national-level background checks and state licenses of operation, but does not require the fingerprinting outlined in Austin’s ordinances.

In other words, the regulations look a lot more like what the proposed Proposition 1 addendum said. But, for better or worse, Austin voted against that addendum. So were do we go from here?

Can’t we all just get along?

Don’t re-download your apps and dust off those pink mustaches just yet. If the state and city level regulations disagree, there might be further conflict in store. “To the extent that this language is contrary to the City’s legislative agenda, the City of Austin must oppose it,” said Marissa Monroy, public information manager for the Austin transportation department.

Online sentiment to the two proposed bills is varied. While many people are vocal about wanting the Austin ride share situation back to the golden days, almost as many urge caution and remind us that the regulations were proposed for a reason, and we should proceed with that in mind.

The best time to voice your opinion is now, while the city and state are making decisions that will effect the entire industry. The best way to voice your opinion is to get in touch with your senator (here’s how to find them) and let them know what you want to see happen.

Don’t be left holding a tub of ice cream wishing you had said what was in your heart. Communication is essential for all relationships.

#AustinRidesharing

Felix is a writer, online-dating consultant, professor, and BBQ enthusiast. She lives in Austin with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheros and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction on her website.

Business News

Think LuLaRoe is a pyramid scheme? Founders say your opinion’s uneducated

(BUSINESS NEWS) LuLaRoe Founders fight back against allegations saying that they’re a disruptive business model, not a pyramid scheme, and anyone that disagrees is uneducated…

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Clothing company LuLaRoe insists that they are not a “pyramid scheme” despite recent class-action lawsuits claiming that the company lured retailers into buying thousands of dollars’ worth of unsellable merchandise.

LuLaRoe uses “multi-level marketing” to sell their products, meaning that the company sells merchandise to “consultants” – most of them women working from home who resell the merchandise to their neighbors and friends at home parties. The idea is that moms who want to stay home with the kids will have an independent way of making an income.

Last month, two class-action lawsuits were filed against LuLaRoe, claiming that the company makes the vast majority of its profits off of women who sign up to be consultants, rather than from sales to the end-users.

Plaintiffs say they have lost thousands of dollars because LuLaRoe aggressively pushes consultants to buy up to $20,000 worth of merchandise that can’t sell, either because the markets is flooded, or because the products are poor – one suit claiming that the fabrics tear like “wet toilet paper.”

“The vast majority of consultants sitting at the bottom of defendants’ pyramid were and remain destined for failure and unable to turn any profit,” says one suit. “Some resulted in financial ruin due to pressure to max out credit cards and to take loans to purchase inventory.”

The suits further claim that when women have tried to get out of the business, LuLaRoe has refused to take back and refund unsold merchandise, while also telling former consultants that they can no longer sell the products. Thus, consultants are stuck with thousands of dollars of merchandise that they can’t sell sitting in their garages and basements.

Deanne and Mark Stidham, founders of LuLaRose, tell CBS that it isn’t a pyramid scheme and that anyone who thinks so has an “uneducated opinion.”

Says Deanne Stidham, “You get the product, you put it before people, and you sell it, and you have money, and that’s the simplicity of this business and that’s as easy as it can be.”

The Stidhams implied that jealous retailers were encouraging plaintiffs to sue because the LuLaRoe model has been “disruptive in the marketplace.”

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Business News

Class action lawsuit claims Tesla plant is a hotbed of racism

(BUSINESS NEWS) Tesla is being hit with another lawsuit, this time alleging discrimination at one of their plants. No wonder Musk wants to get to Mars…

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Groundbreaking automaker Tesla may be the future of automotive transportation, but when it comes to discrimination, some say the company seems to be living in the past.

This week, the company received notice that they would be brought to court by a group of black workers filing a class action lawsuit. The suit states that the Tesla’s Fremont, California production plant is a “hotbed of racist behavior.”

The suit was filed by former employee Marcus Vaughn in the California state court in Oakland and is the third lawsuit filed this year by black workers and former workers from Tesla.

Vaughn, who began working in the factory in April, says that his supervisors regularly referred to him using racial slurs. When he wrote a complaint to the human resources department, they were unresponsive. Then in October, Vaughn was fired for “not having a positive attitude.”

Tesla is denying the claims, saying that they did investigate the incidents, and fired three workers as a result. The company went so far as to post a statement called “Hotbed of Misinformation” on its website on Wednesday, saying that the company is “absolutely against any form of discrimination, harassment, or unfair treatment of any kind.”

In May, Musk sent an email to all employees telling them that should never “allow someone to feel excluded, uncomfortable or unfairly treated.” However, he also said that workers should “be thick-skinned.”

Vaughn’s lawyer, Lawrence Organ, who also sued Tesla on behalf of three black Tesla workers last month, responded that “The law doesn’t require you to have a thick skin. When you have a diverse workforce, you need to take steps to make sure everyone feels welcome in that workforce.”

Tesla is also facing lawsuits claiming that the company discriminates against gay and older workers, and last month, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union filed a complaint to the federal labor board, saying that Tesla had fired workers for supporting unionization.

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Business News

Harvard digs into how several women broke the glass ceiling

(BUSINESS NEWS) At an increasing pace, the glass ceiling is being shattered, but what did it ACTUALLY take for individual women to do just that?

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More than ever, women are breaking the glass ceiling in businesses. However, progress is still very slow, with the number of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies only increasing little by little each year.

The Rockefeller Foundations’ 100×25 initiative hopes to have 100 female CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies by 2025. To this end, they’ve given a grant to Korn Ferry, a recruiting firm, to find “research-based tools and strategies” for launching more women into executive positions.

Korn Ferry teamed up with Harvard Business Review researchers to interview and assess 57 female CEOs to find out the plot points and personality traits led to their business success. From these observations, they’ve made some crucial recommendations for how companies can get more women into top positions. Here’s what they discovered.

First of all, the study found that women had to work harder and longer to get to the top than men. They held more positions, worked for more companies, and were an average of four years older than their male counterparts.

Secondly, the study also found that female CEOs were motivated by different factors than male CEOs. They were less interested in status and rewards than they were in collaboration and in participating in something that would contribute positively to company culture or to the community as a whole.

The study also identified four common characteristics of female CEOs: courage, risk-taking, resilience, and managing ambiguity. Breaking the glass ceiling in and of itself required women to face fears, take on challenges, and stay in the fight even when discouraged.

Despite these powerful personality traits, female CEOs were found to be more humble than male CEOs. They spent less time promoting themselves and were more likely to be thankful for their coworkers and supporters, and to give credit to others for their successes or their company’s successes. Female CEOs saw themselves as a part of a team and understood that no single person was responsible for defining the company or making it successful.

The study discovered that very few female CEOs had envisioned themselves making it that far. Only five grew up dreaming of being a CEO, and two-thirds said that they didn’t even think about being a CEO until a mentor or boss encouraged them.

Lastly, the study found that female CEOs had strong backgrounds in STEM, as well as business, finance, and economics. None of the CEOs started their careers in human resources, a department that is often heavily staffed by women.

From these findings, the researchers made several suggestions to strengthen the “pipeline” of women into top positions. This included identifying women with potential earlier and giving them more opportunities and guidance, including mentors and sponsors. It also suggested describing leadership roles in terms that resonate with women by showing how the role will give them a chance to add value to the business and do something positive in the world.

Finally, the researchers warned to beware of the “glass cliff,” wherein women are only given leadership opportunities when the company is in crisis or when there is a high chance of failure. Instead, companies are encouraged to give women a chance when the brand is doing well, or if you must put them in a high-risk position, help them bounce back so that it doesn’t ruin their career.

Read more on the study at Harvard Business Review.

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