Spoilers ahead

June 20, 2015

Via CoyoteBlog I ran across some news recently that left me thinking worse of my fellow citizens. Some people just can’t leave well-enough alone.

First, here’s a report about Deborah Vollmer in Chevy Chase, MD. She seems to be conducting some type of social justice warfare over property zoning. (My emphasis below.)

Declaring war against thy neighbor over a house and a shared driveway

Deborah Vollmer wants to make one thing very clear. Under no circumstances can you park on the driveway. This is not a drill. This is not a joke. Please park on the street.

This isn’t just a driveway, Vollmer explained, stepping across it on a soggy Thursday morning. It is the fault line dividing two titanic forces, a battlefield between past and present, between the haves and the have-nots, between environmental conservation and environmental degradation.

Put another way, the driveway separates her million-dollar house from her neighbor’s million-dollar house.

Suddenly, a figure materialized at the window in the neighbor’s house. It was Vollmer’s next-door neighbor and nemesis — an elegantly dressed, blond-haired woman named Linda Schwartz, who at this precise moment looked very unhappy. Seconds later, a garage door screeched open and Schwartz backed her ­Mercedes-Benz onto the driveway.

Vollmer, eyes widening in alarm, darted out of sight. “I got to get out of here!” she yelled as she vamoosed. “There’s a no-contact order against me!” […]

Thus passed another tense moment in what local officials say has become the town of Chevy Chase’s lengthiest, costliest, and most litigious neighborhood spat in recent memory. What began as a contested building permit six years ago has spiraled into a clash of wills, spawning five lawsuits, two misdemeanor convictions, arrests, anger-management classes, and a court order that Vollmer steer clear of the Schwartzes — or risk spending 18 months in the slammer.

“It is so sad that this has happened,” said Arthur Schwartz. “She is independently wealthy, has not had to work and has little else to do but continue to sue us and her own town, without regard to the law or what any court has told her.” […]

Read the whole thing to get the flavor of Ms Vollmer’s state of mind. Thank goodness she doesn’t live in my neighborhood.

And from the other coast, Megan McArdle writes about Barbara Berwick’s suit against Uber (and quotes one of Coyote’s posts). RTWT.

‘Employee’ Label Would End Uber as We Know It

If you’re a freelance writer who occasionally sells articles to a website, are you actually an employee? If you live in California, I think the answer might be — yes?

The California labor commissioner has ruled that Uber drivers are employees, not contractors, because they can’t be Uber drivers without the application, because the company pulls DMV records and does background checks, and because the company specifies various rules about how the work may be performed and cuts off access to the application if you get persistently low ratings or are inactive for 180 days (presumably since they no longer have good data on your driving ability).

On the face of it, this ruling seems ludicrous. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had an employer who said: “Hey, as long as you don’t actively alienate the customers, you can just show up and work whenever you feel like. No need to let me know when you’re coming, just show up and I’ll pay you for any work you do. Just put in a couple of hours every six months, m’kay?” Yeah, I never had that job either, and neither did anyone else who wasn’t blackmailing the boss or working for a family member. […]

But wait… there’s more! Here’s an article by Lauren Smiley about Ms Berwick and her legal actions against Uber and others.

The Many, Many Cases of the Woman Who Just Beat Uber
“I’m enjoying my five minutes of fame.”

As Barbara Ann Berwick tells it, she came to San Francisco in 1969 “to be a hippie” — but ended up as an online funds trader, a defeated political candidate, and a repeat litigant, who has pressed legal claims against everyone from a hospital to a media company for leaving newspapers at her doorstep. (She lost.)

Now, though, Berwick has won an important blow against one of the most powerful companies in today’s San Francisco. The California Labor Commissioner’s Office determined her to be an employee of Uber — not just a contractor — and awarded her approximately $4,000 in expenses, according to court documents. […]

Berwick waved off naysayers who will accuse her of cruising for another legal settlement by taking the wheel of her car for Uber. This is, after all, a time when the behemoth ridesharing company faces battles across the country about classifying its drivers as contractors, meaning that they are not eligible for benefits or other perks. She wasn’t cynical, says Berwick. She said she’d been homeless in the past. But now in general, “I’m doing quite well.”

“I want social change,” Berwick says. Before she took the Uber gig, she says, she didn’t realize that she’d be driving as a contractor. “I didn’t actually read the box I checked, so I assumed I’d be an employee, because it makes no sense to be an independent contractor. I found out real fast.” She says she was regularly driving more than 40 hours a week.

She says she stopped driving in September and filed her claim. […]

I think Berwick got her "social change" – for herself and for all the other Uber drivers in California. Be sure to tell Barabara "Thanks," folks.

Ms Berwick’s claim that she didn’t understand that she’d be treated as a contractor strikes me as pretty disingenuous. A person who’s been an online trader and a repeat litigant (a) doesn’t read agreements and (b) doesn’t know how Uber works? What?

Perhaps there’s more behind her suit against Uber than has been reported. Who benefits from the labor commissioner’s decision? Not Uber, certainly. Not most other Uber drivers, probably. Berwick’s benefits were the small windfalls of $4,000 and "five minutes of fame," so no clear winners so far.

So who will benefit from this?

Or did Berwick have her eye on more than recovering her expenses?

Trans Woman Who Sued Uber For Expenses Wants To Become CEO.

One comment

  1. […] reminds me of a recent post. Thank goodness my neighbors don’t practice this passive-aggressive […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: