By Gina Cherelus
Uber is joining with the International Association of Machinists to launch a union to represent drivers of the ride-hailing service in New York City.
Under a five-year agreement, the Independent Drivers' Guild, which will be a branch of the Machinists Union, will aim to protect the current 35,000 drivers and any future drivers who work for Uber in the city, it said in a statement.
"Forming this Guild is crucial for thousands of drivers who need a stronger voice and gives organised labor an opportunity to shape the new economy in a way that supports and values workers and their families," said James Conigliaro Jr, founder of the Independent Drivers Guild.
Uber has been trying to repair a sometimes rocky relationship with its drivers across the country.
Some drivers have filed lawsuits contending that they should be classified as employees rather than contractors.
According to court documents made public this week, drivers who worked for Uber in California and Massachusetts would have been entitled to an estimated US$730 million (NZ$1.07 billion) in expense reimbursements over the past seven years had they been officially employed by the company.
Uber and the guild said the new organisation will look to improve the relationship between drivers and the company, insure discounted legal services, provide life and disability insurance, roadside assistance, education services and access to an online employee centre.
The union will also give drivers the ability to appeal deactivation decisions, when Uber denies access to its app for drivers found to have broken its code of conduct.
Plouffe said the union would also level the playing field for Uber drivers since rides on Uber will be taxed at the same rate as taxis and private drivers for the first time.
Membership of the guild is currently free for all Uber drivers in New York City, until it's bigger then there will be a fee to join.