Ride-Hailing Drivers Strike, as Execs Stand to Make Millions in IPOs
Lyft and Uber drivers are planning to strike on Wednesday, turning off their apps and protesting at company offices to demand better wages, job security, benefits and transparency around pay structures.
“We don’t know if we will have a job from one day to the next,” Lyft driver Henry Rolands said in a statement released by the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance. “We make pennies while the app companies make billions off the backs of drivers who suffer and suffer.”
The action, which is to take place in at least eight cities, will involve thousands of drivers and comes just two days before Uber is expected to take the company public. Uber’s IPO, CNBC reports, is “expected to be the largest among new tech stock debuts this year with an expected valuation of $80.53 billion to $91.51 billion.”
Some workers will not drive that day; others will stop for a few hours. In New York City, the strike is expected to last two hours during the heart of the morning commute. “This is an act of solidarity with drivers across the country, and really across the world, who are suffering with poverty wages,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, told The Washington Post.
In Virginia, Henock Wonderse will be turning off his app all day, because, as he explained to The Washington Post, “The wages are so unpredictable and so low, it’s very difficult to make a living.” Los Angeles drivers, who, as the Post points out, were the first to propose a strike, will also be off work all day, according to a release from Rideshare Drivers United.
A spokeswoman for Uber told the Post in a statement that “Drivers are at the heart of our service—we can’t succeed without them—and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road.”
She added, “Whether it’s more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections or fully-funded four-year degrees for drivers or their families, we’ll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.” Lyft declined to comment.
Drivers for Lyft (it went public in March) and Uber are unconvinced. They say the companies’ massive financial success comes at the expense of workers. Drivers are classified as independent contractors, which allows the ride-hailing companies to forgo employee benefits like health insurance and impacts job security. Despite multiple lawsuits attempting to make ride-hailing services classify drivers as employees, the services have not done so.
In March, as TechCrunch reports, Uber paid $20 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by drivers in California and Massachusetts challenging their independent contractor status. In New York, as the Post reports, “drivers won a recent battle when the city enacted a law that mandates ride-hail companies pay them at least $17.22 an hour after expenses,” although “organizers said the rates across the board are below a living wage.”
Both the $20 million settlement and the increase in New York City wages were apparently less expensive for ride-hailing companies than granting their drivers employee status. As CNBC reports, “Uber and Lyft both acknowledged in their IPO prospectuses that reclassifying its drivers as employees would negatively impact their businesses.”
Instead of benefits, both companies have instead used bonuses for individual drivers who complete a certain number of miles or rides, or drive at particularly busy times of day. Those bonuses can reach up to $10,000, but as Mostafa Maklad, an Uber driver in Los Angeles told Fortune, “It’s nothing compared to the billions [the executives] are going to make.”
According to CNBC, Uber founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick stands to gain $5.3 billion from the IPO; his co-founder, Garrett Camp, is expected to receive approximately $3.7 billion.Wait, before you go…
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