By Ally Marotti Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The new program called "Uber Works" would help companies find temporary, hourly employees.
Uber Technologies is developing an on-demand staffing business called Uber Works, and the tech giant has been testing the service in Chicago.
Uber Works would provide events and corporate functions with temporary workers, such as servers or event staff, according to a source familiar with the project.
The company has been running a pilot version of the business-to-business service for the past few months.
Depending on the business partner using Uber Works, the temporary workers, who, unlike Uber drivers, are hourly employees, could supplement a company or restaurant's existing staff.
If an event planner needs more servers at the last minute, for example, he or she could use Uber Works.
Many of the details surrounding the service are still being developed, including launch and expansion plans, the source said. The Financial Times first reported that Uber Works is being tested in Chicago.
Uber, which has about 600 full-time employees at its offices throughout the Chicago area, has job postings on its site for members of a team that "operates as a startup within Uber." The job description for a general manager role in Chicago says the candidate needs to have a "strong interest in the on-demand labor space" and the "ability to be on call when the product is busiest (often nights, weekends and holidays)."
Besides its ride-hailing service, Uber also offers its food-delivery service, Uber Eats, in Chicago. Additionally, the company has been building out its Uber Freight business, which matches carriers and shippers, in the city.
Uber reportedly is preparing to go public next year. It's common for a company looking at an initial public offering to try to increase its value by rolling out new products or bulking up existing ones, said Todd Louderback, an audit partner at Deloitte who works with public companies and companies preparing to go public.
"The more stories that you can sell ... the more impactful your IPO will be," he said.
The new temporary labor service places Uber in competition with other gig-finding companies that already operate in town. Chicago-based Shiftgig, for example, launched in 2011 as a job board and has grown into an on-demand platform for a range of service industry workers in 13 cities.
"Uber in any form is definitely a formidable competitor," said Eddie Lou, co-founder and executive chairman of Shiftgig. "(But) it validates the marketplace and it validates the business. People are interested in this type of work."
Shiftgig's employees are part-time workers. Though Uber Works' employees are hourly, Uber's drivers are independent contractors. The company and other gig-economy employers have faced criticism over this designation because independent contractors do not share rights such as overtime pay, minimum-wage requirements or paid sick leave.