It's beginning to look like Barbara Ann Berwick, the woman who successfully petitioned the California Labor Commission for reimbursable expenses during her stint as an Uber driver last summer and won a ruling this week, did not go after the company because she was hard up for cash. The San Francisco Business Times sat down for an interview with Berwick at her home in SF's Anza Vista Heights, and the self-employed investor and former phone-sex entrepreneur makes it sound like she knew exactly what she was doing when, after just two months as an Uber driver, she resigned and filed her claim for just over $4,000 in expenses.
Berwick, who is trans and graduated UC Berkeley with a degree in mathematics, comes off as a very intelligent rabble rouser who once ran for SF Supervisor in 2010 (she got 500 votes, which actually isn't half bad). She represented herself before the labor commission, and even cross-examined Uber execs during the proceedings. Berwick clearly saw what the legal flaws were in the labor agreement she signed with Uber before she drove for them from July to September of last year. But she sounds pissed, saying, "This would not have happened if Uber hadn't appealed."
She also says that she's seeking work as a consultant or possible CEO, and she even asked Uber if they'd like to hire her in some executive capacity.
The Business Times says that Berwick "resigned" in September of last year, but the San Jose Mercury-News reported that Berwick "filed a complaint with the labor commission about the way she was treated." The NY Post also notes that she quit, citing that the "money was not what she expected and management was uncommunicative." She also tells the Business Times that she won an earlier ruling that was not published for unemployment compensation, despite the resignation.
It's also possible that there was tension around Berwick's approval ratings another key piece of the argument surrounding whether drivers are treated as employees but she may not legally be able to disclose that.
But, of course, the Post takes some pleasure in Berwick's being "transsexual" and out of the ordinary also noting that it was her work running the former phone sex line, dubbed Linda's Lip Service, that taught her the ins and outs of California contractor law.
A Texas native and over 6 feet tall, Berwick moved to San Francisco in the 1960s and in many ways exemplifies the city’s colorful political fabric. She now works out of her home in the Anza Vista neighborhood with sparkling views of San Francisco’s iconic Sutro tower.
She is transsexual, polyamorous but in a longtime domestic partnership with a woman, and unsuccessfully ran for local office in 2010. One of her campaign planks was to offer a reward for information leading to the prosecution of anyone dealing in date rape drugs.
It seems as though Uber will likely try appealing this again, unless of course all the dominoes start to fall with that pending federal case too.
All I can say is, you go Barbara Ann.