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UberWorks App To Pick Up Shift Work Draws Interest, Concern

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Picking up work by using an app or going online is turning a corner.

Uber is testing a new app in Chicago allowing shift workers to find a quick job. But CBS 2's Vince Gerasole went looking beyond convenience and found some have cause for concern.

A boom in the service industry has shift workers like Jacob Welch in short supply and high demand.

"I've been working in the industry for 12 years. I'm from a long family of bartenders," Welch said.

Service pros attracted to the profession's flexibility.

"It's very flexible, so you can do a bunch of other stuff as well as serve," he said.

The Estate in Rosemont is booked out a year and a half in advance, and holding on to a reliable staff in these boom times is key, according to owner Michelle Durpetti. She said finding staff is difficult.

"There are so many options – so many restaurants, so many event facilities. They can come, and accept a job, and then potentially get a dollar more over here or different benefits over there," Durpetti said.

Uber is entering the short-notice employment market, matching workers like Welch to employers like Durpetti with a new app the company is testing in Chicago called UberWorks.

The app reaches out to shift workers like waiters, bartenders, and even concession staff at sporting and concert events.

We gave the app a try. After downloading, users follow a few prompts about the types of single shift jobs they might be interested in, and then select a date when they will be pre-screened for 20 minutes by phone.

Applying for a job in such a fashion on your phone might make perfect sense for the moment, but it could come with some downsides.

"When you're giving more people more access to jobs, technically, it feels like a good thing," said gig industry consultant Athan Slotkin.

But Slotkin worries if Uber's broad reach might eventually drive down wages when workers are easier to locate.

Carol's Event Staff has placed reliable shift workers for a quarter century. It's a business model based on one-on-one interviews, and owner Carol Brewer says that's crucial for reliability and vetting.

"Our clients want us to know who they're hiring, so we know our people," Brewer said.

And while this kind of app may make life easier for workers, employers say they may need more convincing.

"It piques my interest, but it also pops, like, my concern – my red flag kind of pops as well," Durpetti said.

Employers want to know if workers are trained or insured. We had some of those same questions for Uber, but they did not respond to several requests for an interview Monday.

We did learn that a third-party firm would be responsible for withholding all taxes.

Uber is also working with the YWCA to help clients transitioning from full-time work to find a part-time option.

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