This past Monday, thousands of California Uber and Lyft drivers participated in a 25-hour strike and protest.
Demonstrations took place on the street and in front of Uber’s offices. In the Bay Area, protestors picketed the Omni hotel in San Francisco, forcing Lyft to relocate its initial public offering (IPO) roadshow in which they were presenting to potential investors.
Much of the protests, organized by a growing coalition of ride-hailing drivers who are members of Rideshare Drivers United, called for fair wages and better treatment of workers. Under the ride-hail business model, drivers are independent contractors who use Uber and Lyft apps to connect with riders. In addition, they can work at any time. However, drivers are not eligible for benefits, overtime or minimum wage. As well, they cannot unionize. According to Rideshare Drivers United, they pa is not a livable wage.
Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders sent his support through a Tweet.
I stand with Uber and Lyft drivers striking in LA. One job should be enough to make a decent living in America, especially for those working for multibillion-dollar companies. Drivers must be paid the wages they deserve. #StrikeUberLyft https://t.co/uyp8E0VkyR
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 25, 2019
A study by Economic Policy Institute found that most drivers make under $12 a hour nationwide—less than the minimum wage in California. According to the study, the average Uber driver’s “hourly compensation is substantially less than the $32.06 average hourly compensation of private-sector workers and less than the $14.99 average hourly compensation of workers in the lowest-paid major occupation.”
Rideshare Drivers United pushes for an industry offering more sustainable wages such as a minimum pay matching New York City’s $27.86 per hour before expenses. Their demands also include representation on Uber and Lyft board of directors, the right to organize and more transparency in the breakdown of fares.
Push back, at home and abroad
This not the first driver-led protest against the companies. Rallies against Uber have taken place in Chicago, Reno, Italy, Barcelona, Paris, Toronto and even Australia regarding wages and its pricing system. Even traditional taxi companies and cabbies held protests to oust the company from its ride-booking services.
As well, cab companies and municipalities have also filed lawsuits in the past, claiming that the often, cheaper Uber and Lyft, undermine traditional cabbies. In August 2018, New York City Council approved a temporary cap on the number of for-hire delivery and transportation vehicles allowed on the roads. The decision authorized a 12-month hold on the issuances of for-hire licenses. Last month, Uber sued NYC to overturn the city-approved legislation that tried to remedy the disproportionate numbers of private for-hire cars versus taxis: 4 to 1.
While drivers fight for more pay, Uber and Lyft work towards expanding its operations. On Thursday, Lyft IPO was introduced into Nasdaq. The valuation given now stands at $25 billion. Identified as the number two ride-hailing company, Lyft also posted 2018 losses just above $900 million. With the recent IPO launch, Lyft drivers want pay they see as more equitable.
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