Screen shot from UberMILITARY promotional spot (posted below story).

Uber is on a mission to hire 50,000 veterans from the U.S. military over the next 18 months through its new UberMILITARY program. The company has already signed up more than 1,000 veterans to become drivers (and as Uber puts it, small business owners) in the first two weeks of the campaign, and considering the pervasive unemployment challenges many vets face as they transition into civilian life, some aspects of the program sound promising — on paper, anyway.

To get the word out, Uber launched a PR blitz in which the company claimed median earnings in range of $90,000 a year for a full-time driver in New York City, but according to a revealing piece by The Verge, the reality for vets on Uber-wheels doesn’t necessarily square with those generous numbers:

Since Uber drivers are not technically employees, they must pay out of pocket for gas, insurance, and car expenses—costs the company doesn’t account for.

Slate’s Alison Griswold recently did the math—factoring in expenses—and the numbers didn’t add up. One of the drivers she spoke with reported a take-home rate of $12 an hour. […] Griswold asked Uber to point her to a driver making the advertised median income, but the company declined.

The company also changes fares and compensation rates at will, and experiments with the drivers’ share of profits. In Los Angeles, Uber’s largest market, drivers for its UberX service earned $2.40 per mile and took home 95 percent of their fares last December. Now, they take in $1.10 and 80 percent of their fares.

These unpredictable working conditions don’t sit well with many drivers. There are currently attempts in Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle to unionize. Labor rights organizations have launched strikes and protests over what organizers call low-wages and precarious working conditions. In Boston and San Francisco, class action lawsuits against Uber were recently filed, alleging labor violations. Uber has tried and failed to get both suits dismissed.

Although the idea of hiring tens of thousands of veterans is commendable, perhaps offering better wages to employees of a company that has recently been valued at $18.2 billion would make UberMILITARY seem like less of a self-serving stunt and more like a viable service to help America’s vets.

Watch the UberMILITARY spot below:

— Posted by Donald Kaufman.

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