Yaseen Aslam is a real-life celebrity who live-streams his life and talks about important issues on Twitter. This Londoner is so famous that people often stop him on the streets to talk to him or shake his hand.
On Facebook, he’s being followed by a popular filmmaker who wants to turn Aslam’s life into a documentary – but it won’t be another three years before the film will hit the screens around the globe.
But what makes Aslam so popular, you ask? If you guessed that he is a social media celebrity or a television star, then you’re wrong. Aslam is, in fact, a former Uber Driver who single-handedly took on the ride-sharing giant – and that makes him a celebrity in most people’s eyes.
The Story of a Fighter
One of the Uber drivers, who recently lost his job after he was unable to locate a disabled customer who had ordered a ride on the app, thinks that Yaseen Aslam is a brave man for waging a war against the ride-sharing giant.
But Aslam doesn’t agree. His family had to go through an extremely rough time during his campaign. Even the former Uber driver himself was struck with depression after people started recognizing him on the streets, and even potential employers would refuse to hire him after learning about his battle against one of the most powerful companies in the world.
The campaign began back in 2015 when Aslam and his friend James Farrar, who also worked as an Uber driver, decided to fight for justice and show the world that drivers working for Uber and Lyft aren’t just ‘independent contractors’ working on their own, but are actually company employees entitled to work benefits such as paid holidays, minimum wage and insurance.
Aslam says that no one believed that he would ever be able to take down a company like Uber and his family had to go through a lot during the campaign until he and his co-claimant friend, Farrar, actually started to win.
In 2016, Aslam and Farrar’s case was brought to the employment tribunal, and surprisingly, the panel of judges chose to side with them over Uber. The tribunal agreed that classifying ride-share drivers as ‘independent contractors’ was, indeed, unfair, and that Uber needed to start recognizing the drivers as its employees. Aslam and Farrar were victorious – but their triumph was short-lived.
The billionaire CEO of Uber fought back, with his vast financial resources and an army of best lawyers in the country, to challenge the tribunal ruling and appealed the decision in British Supreme Court. Suddenly, Aslam and Farrar were back to square one.
This next phase of the fight proved to be even more challenging for Aslam who was constantly told by his friends and family that he would not be able to win against Uber, because the company could easily pay the judge to rule in its favor. But Aslam didn’t want to let go. He had come so far in this struggle, and if he stepped back now, all the time and money he spent fighting the case, would go to waste.
Just before winning the case at the employment tribunal in 2016, Aslam decided that it was time to leave his career as an Uber driver behind. He wanted to join a smaller taxi company, but no one was willing to hire someone of Aslam’s notoriety. Not having any means of earning, he was forced to sell his car in order to pay his bills.
Today, Aslam has gone back to his previous career as an IT advisor for the Ministry of Defense. His fight for employment rights has been taken over by other Uber Drivers who have banded together to form their own union.
Aslam still has a long way to go in his fight for equal employment rights, and it may take him another few years before the high-profile case reaches its conclusion.