Uber is launching a new app on Friday in Chicago that will match temporary workers looking for shift work with businesses looking to fill gaps in their rosters, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The new business will be called Uber Works and has been in stealth mode in Chicago for a year, following a trial in the city and an earlier trial in Los Angeles. Although it will be now be officially launched in Chicago, one person said Uber was exploring rolling out the service more widely.
The platform is designed to help blue-collar workers such as clerks and chefs, without requiring them to re-enter their credentials every time they sign up for a new job. The technology will also allow them to have oversight of the shifts they do in one place.
Uber will be partnering with agencies, including TrueBlue, one of the largest industrial staffing companies in the US, according to a person familiar with the project.
Even though the app is part of the “on-demand” gig economy model, Uber will sign up workers that are “W2 employees”, or staff that are eligible to receive certain benefits. Their employers — in this case, staffing agencies — will also be required to pay payroll taxes, the person said.
Uber declined to comment.
The company’s move to offer a service to gig economy workers comes as Uber’s mainstay business is under threat in its home market. Last month, California passed a bill that will make it difficult for ride-hailing companies to continue classifying its drivers as contractors rather than as employees.
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber chief executive, told reporters last week he wanted the company’s app to become “a one-click gateway to everything that Uber can offer”, including ride-hailing, e-bikes, scooters, helicopters and on-demand food.
The opportunity Uber is trying to exploit is vast. Total personal income in the US is nearly $18tn a year, and work roles are becoming non-traditional.
According to Deloitte, the professional services firm, the number of workers in the US doing “alternative” work — a category comprising contractors, outsourced teams, freelancers and gig workers — will hit 42m people next year, a three-fold increase from 2017. In Deloitte’s latest study of millennials, almost two-thirds wanted a “side hustle” to make extra cash.
Uber Works could compete with groups like Wonolo, an on-demand staffing platform launched five years ago that is backed by Bain Capital Ventures and Sequoia, the venture capital firms.