Lack of Empathy

RECEIVED Thu., May 12, 2016

Dear Editor,
    Regarding Prop 1, I am so disappointed and sad with Austin voters because there was a subject no one talked about because so many everyday Austinites don't even see them: Uber/Lyft drivers.
    In my mind, true progressivism is about how society treats the least of us. As a voter, I can't ignore Uber/Lyft employees’ impending suffering (many of whom are people of color). I can't deny any sense of responsibility either. What frightens me about an increasingly affluent Austin are white-collar progressives who only see themselves and talk about our ignored and disrespected working-class when they are forced to recognize they exist. In Austin, there is an illness reaching epidemic proportions: a sickness called lack of empathy.
    It's hard to see the devastating effects on job loss or opportunity, when people interact with those just like themselves: liberal, educated, middle-class, and/or wealthy. There is no idea what it means to live paycheck to paycheck, having to choose between rent and food, or being forced to live day by day. Many Uber/Lyft drivers are in that position. Many of Austin's working-class to whom white-collar workers depend for their retail, maintenance, and construction needs have experienced that strife as well. Imperfect and without benefits, being a TNC driver gave some opportunity for a living wage (which Austin voters have told City Hall they value).
    As a result of this vote, many drivers won't be able to pay their bills, their rent for the month, their tuition for school, their student loans or medical bills, and won't have extra spending money on an otherwise meager income. Gone, because Austin decided to “give it” to corporations, but never thought about who their votes actually affect: our endangered working-class whose lifeline to remain in the city is now even more frayed and tenuous. Yet on Saturday evening, many liberal voters were giving each other hugs and high-fives.
    As a result, both the strategic decision made by Uber/Lyft to preserve their business model (and leave) and Against-voters striking back at TNCs in the voting booth will cause untold suffering for Uber/Lyft drivers. However, Austin also sent a message to our endangered working-class: You are on your own. Our Pyrrhic victory is worth your suffering because you don't matter. Your purpose is to serve; and like Uber/Lyft's decision to leave (and so much of our gig economy), you are disposable.
    Whether heads or tails, Austin's workers always lose.
Thomas W. Ates II
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