Uber, NAACP hope to recruit 3,000 drivers from NJ’s poor neighborhoods
Uber New Jersey and the New Jersey NAACP have started a partnership to recruit 3,000 new drivers from low income communities throughout New Jersey by mid-2016, they announced Monday.
According to the announcement, Uber will host a series of driver education events "to inform residents about partnering with Uber and connecting with flexible economic opportunities."
The move was praised by former Newark Mayor and now-Sen. Cory Booker, who said creating work opportunities in low-income communities "is critical to providing support to New Jersey families who need it most while strengthening our region’s economy."
“Fostering the creation of new wage-earning opportunities in some of New Jersey’s most under-served communities opens doors that will help preserve the corps of our neighborhoods and build an economy that works for everyone," he said in the announcement from the company and the NAACP.
Cumberland County Freeholder Douglas Long said "expanding economic opportunity and giving people more work options should be a top priority for everyone in our state.”
The partnership will focus on counties where the median income level falls below New Jersey’s median income: Camden County, Cumberland County, Salem County, Cape May County, Atlantic County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Union County, Hudson County, Essex County and Warren County.
Uber — which calls its drivers "partners," as they work independently through its platform but are not considered employees — has proven a contentious company for New Jersey legislators.
Proposed legislation would subject companies like Uber to similar regulations to those in effect for taxi companies — drivers would be subject to background checks, and stricter insurance and inspection requirements. Taxi companies are also currently subject to licensing fees that don’t apply to Uber.
But such legislation has only cleared a committee vote in the Assembly and hasn’t moved in the state Senate at all.
In June, state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris) accused the company of "stonewalling" any effort to regulate it, and said it should stop operating in New Jersey.
"Uber has constantly fought against being included in the New Jersey regulatory system," he said at the time. "This system provides that the cars transporting clients are safe, their drivers are not criminals and in case of injuries covered by the proper liability insurance."
Uber New Jersey told New Jersey 101.5 in a statement last week the company offers a "safe, reliable way to get from A to B." It has pointed in the past to its own background check system and the ratings left by users as mechanisms to keep users safe.
The company's been embraced by other political leaders. Evesham Township and now neighboring Voorhees are partnering with Uber to offer people free rides home from bars and restaurant, in an effort to combat drunk driving.