Profile of People's Ride: a co-operative, driver-owned alternative to Uber

People's Ride is a co-op ride-hailing company in Grand Rapids, Michigan: drivers own the service in common and collectively decide how to spend its profits (for example, on deploying an app to go with its website); for-profit competitors like Uber take 30% commissions from their drivers and deliver them to investors, while People's Ride spends all the revenue paying drivers and improving the service.

People's Ride bootstrapped itself with the personal funds of founder Matthew Bair and with a small Gofundme campaign. It was able to take advantage of special insurance packages created for Uber and Lyft drivers, though unlike those services, it doesn't extend insurance to drivers (drivers pay for their own, though they're contemplating shifting this expense to the business). Drivers earn 55% more than they would driving for Uber or Lyft.

I substitute teach in inner city schools. When talking about People's Ride, I try to explain the business in a way that will relate to the students' real-life experiences. I try to explain what it would look like if Uber was organized in a non-capitalist way. Control over profits. I call this the “secret to infinite wealth," which always grabs their attention. I ask: what would you do with a million dollars? "By a new pair of Beats headphones," one student says. Another high school student says: “I would give the money to my Mom so she didn’t have to work two jobs and had time to take me to Cedar Point.”

Uber is a multi-billion dollar company. Imagine what would happen if that money stayed with the drivers. How would that much money help the workers, their family, friends and community? This is a job where employees bring most of their own capital, too: the car, insurance, customer service, driving, promotions and referrals, and in our case, developing the People's Ride app software.

COOP PROFILE: PEOPLE'S RIDE [Democracy at Work]

(via Naked Capitalism)

Notable Replies

  1. FTA Uber is a multi-billion dollar company. Imagine what would happen if that money stayed with the drivers.

    AFAIK CoOps don't get that big for two key reasons: money hoarding allows the company to leverage that wealth to create more (lobbying power n whatnot) & CoOps tend to be operated by real humans, ya know, with souls - unlike .com's they tend to feel bad when they do bad things to their coworkers / don't operate as a soulless entity.

  2. renke says:

    fortunately this is not always true. yes, Mondragon is an outlier and the Spanish/Basque huge co-operatives are not typically. but not all hope is lost!

  3. Whenever I mention the Mondragon model to the "corporations are people" folks, I get responses that include eye-rolling and "sure, if you don't mind communism". When I ask if they think communism is defined by whether or not the executives and board directors actually do work, answers tend to range from "well, obviously" to "you just don't understand the real world".

    The lack of self-awareness and reliance on paradigms that aren't understood is mind-boggling.

  4. Shuck says:

    Reading about Uber for the first time, my immediate thought was that the technology would be perfect for this kind of cooperative venture. I'm glad someone's finally doing it - I'd feel a lot better about using a service like this than Uber/Lyft. The technology would really lend itself to all sorts of other cooperative ventures, too - which I also hope we'll see.

  5. We all know how accepting Franco was to people encouraging communism, don't we?

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