This summer’s Uber driver controversy came to a boil over one particularly notable real estate market item. Whether or not St. Louis residents have ever had occasion to use the web-based taxicab alternative, lately it’s been hard to avoid reading about the noisy dispute.
The controversy has to do with the publicity generated by a group of Uber drivers in their campaign to embarrass company bigwigs into granting them higher wages. They’ve been arguing that since they own their own vehicles, pay for their maintenance, fuel, and taxes—and since they also pitch in all of the driving labor—it’s only reasonable they be proportionately compensated. They say that the Uber company itself supplies only the communications and organizational structure, so the relative split of what riders are charged is grossly unfair.
Uber management points out that there would be no fares without their contribution.
Since both points seem valid, the argument continues.
This summer, a real estate sale entered the picture just as each side was working hard to gain public sympathy. Uber management had been pulling all available public relations levers to portray itself as having the more reasonable position. Then company co-founder Garrett Camp decided to buy a house.
This in itself would probably not raise anybody’s hackles. St. Louis homeowners, for instance, rightly view their own homeownership as the time-honored cornerstone of community participation—certainly no cause for embarrassment. St. Louis homeowners pay the taxes without which the community couldn’t function. Co-founder Camp’s family has to live somewhere—so why would the Uber drivers see red at his decision to buy a house?
The L.A. Times headline explained it well: “Uber co-founder Garrett Camp quietly shells out $71,000,000 for Beverly Hills mansion.” The seven-bedroom, 12,000 sq ft residence in the Trousdale Estates neighborhood was unarguably a “mammoth sale.” Apparently, the purchase was intended to remain confidential, but as The Guardian pointed out, in a “record-breaking” deal like this one, word spreads.
Needless to say, when the company’s drivers got wind of the transaction, they were not pleased. It may not actually be anyone else’s business, but as a tactical matter in the labor dispute, the public perception definitely did bolster the drivers’ side of the argument—especially when reporters claimed to have found Uber drivers “living in their cars.” That contrast was heaven-sent for editorial writers.
Our current crop of St. Louis listings are considerably more affordable than co-founder Camp’s new acquisition—and completely without controversy.
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