Uber hired CIA-linked research firm to investigate Seattle union politics

From The Verge:

For months, Uber has been fending off fraud allegations related to an investigation into one of its legal opponents, which the company commissioned from a secretive CIA-linked research firm called Ergo. Documents related to the case also refer to other investigations Uber contracted with Ergo for, and so far, the details of those investigations have remained secret.

Now, The Verge has found evidence of a separate Ergo project investigating union politics in Seattle, conducted shortly after a controversial ordinance in December granted the city’s drivers the power to bargain collectively. Uber confirmed the project and characterized the effort as research into the city’s political landscape, emphasizing that it was not targeted at any individuals or drivers.

Investigating “recent developments in labor unionization in Seattle”

In an email obtained by The Verge, Ergo reached out to a labor historian named Trevor Griffey, seeking insight into “the recent developments in labor unionization in Seattle” and offering to pay for consultation work on the topic. The email was sent in mid-January, roughly a month after the collective bargaining ordinance was passed.

In the email, the sender identifies himself as an Ergo representative, but says his work is on behalf of a private, anonymous client and that the resulting study will not be released to the public. According to the message, the study would deal with “Seattle’s political stakeholders and the dynamics of labor unions in the city.” The final report was due to be submitted “relatively soon.” Ergo did not respond to requests for comment.

Uber has undertaken a number of initiatives to convince Seattle drivers not to support the newly empowered App Based Drivers Association. In January, Uber customer service representatives began contacting Seattle-based drivers with a new script, which began as a driver satisfaction survey but concluded with a strong …

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