Uber Drivers: A Preferred Way to Get Around When I Travel and a Great Income and Flexible Job for Many

I was in D.C. last week meeting with colleagues who are focused on labor issues both in their respective states and the U.S. Congress. It was exciting to consider all the bad policies that are going by the wayside (like Obama’s overtime rule) and all the good policies that will now get a fair hearing.

I had a few hours on Monday morning before my meetings began. Should I spend the morning responding to emails, or head out to Mount Vernon to commune with George and Martha? Hmm, hard choice….

When I travel I strongly prefer to use Uber to get around, even if I have to wait a little longer at the airport. The cars are cleaner, the drivers are more pleasant (and generally smell a lot better). And the fare is always less. Why would I use a taxi service?

The young woman (Samantha) who took me to Mt. Vernon had grown up in the District; she is in nursing school and working very hard. When she has the time, she drives Uber. I asked her about the costs of using her car and she said it was not a problem.

In fact, on a labor issues conference call last week, I was told by labor economist Diana Furchgott-Roth (Manhattan Institute) that Uber drivers are making about $14 to $15 an hour net of expenses for the car. That is great if you are a nursing student. Samantha tries to drive 20 hours a week but when she has exams or other conflicts, she does not drive. She told me, “I am my own boss and I love it!”

I urged her to get out to Mt. Vernon sometime soon. She had never gone to the historical sites (being from D.C.).

After a quick tour of the mansion and some of the grounds (this was not my first visit), I did some Christmas shopping, then pinged Uber to get back to town. The woman (Diane) who picked me up was equally wonderful. She was widowed about a year ago after a very happy and long marriage. Driving for Uber gets her out of the house and “making good money.” I got to hear all about Diane’s wonderful husband and her crazy family. “They keep telling me to get over it but it has only been a year.” I told her they were just jealous that she had been so happy. It was a great visit ending in a big hug.

Both of these women were very happy to be driving for Uber. They were both native to the DC area and both are black. They are in very different stages of their lives. Samantha is just getting her start in a nursing career. Diane was retired but needed money to make ends meet, but also loved meeting new people.

Now why would our government want to regulate Uber so that Samantha and Diane cannot have the flexibility and cash they need? Also, if I had to pay cab fare from Arlington, I might have chosen to answer emails instead of visiting Mt. Vernon.