Outside Uber HQ, Drivers Demand a Cut of the Riches

Outside Uber HQ, Drivers Demand a Cut of the Riches

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Just days ahead of Silicon Valley’s most hyped mega-IPO, a group of a several hundred Uber drivers gathered in front of the company’s San Francisco headquarters and took over the street in a protest demanding fair pay, benefits, and greater transparency from the rideshare giant.

Friday is set to be the biggest day in Uber’s history: The company is going public and listing on the New York Stock Exchange in one of the biggest IPOs in American history. It’s by far the biggest IPO this year—a year full of Silicon Valley companies hitting the stock market. Even though the company lost over $1 billion last quarter, its executives, engineers, and investors—including Saudi royalty—will rake in fortunes from the IPO.

But Uber drivers around the country and around the world say their own pay is falling despite working longer hours and that the company should be giving them more.

“Uber has been cutting my wages in the last two years,” Derrick Baker, a driver in Northern California, told Gizmodo at Wednesday’s strike. “Be it full time or part time, bad rates are bad rates. So we’re here at HQ asking for a living wage.”

A 2018 study found that pay for drivers of companies like Uber and Lyft had fallen 53 percent since 2013 as a glut of new drivers joined the market. In the Bay Area, home to Uber and Silicon Valley itself, some drivers are struggling mightily to make a living. A number of drivers reportedly commute from hours away and sleep in parking lots in order to make the numbers add up.

American Uber drivers have been increasingly organized in recent years. Bringing gig workers together is a uniquely 21st-century challenge: There is no central workplace, no normal way to communicate, commiserate, and challenge management. But places like airport parking lots and Facebook groups have been fertile ground for conversations to get drivers involved.

Uber has never once sat down with the organizing drivers to discuss their grievances. Last year, drivers hand-delivered a letter complaining about the company’s lack of transparency. An Uber security guard body slammed the driver with the petition outside of the company’s headquarters where Wednesday’s protest took place.

It was a sunny day in San Francisco on Wednesday when the drivers, journalists, cops, and labor organizers crowded Market Street in front of Uber’s headquarters. A brass band supporting the strike played for over an hour while workers chanted, gave speeches, and talked to journalists. It was peaceful, joyous even at times, and was a successful bid by the drivers to get a spotlight on their grievances.

A few Uber corporate employees rushed by the noon-time protest to grab lunch while many more stuck it out in the office. A few dozen watched the protest unfold from the building’s balcony, vaping and observing but not saying much.

Among those back on the street was Gordon Mar, a San Francisco city supervisor who has been raising red flags about the divide between the city’s booming tech sector and its working class.

“If you’re an Uber driver, you’re struggling to get by working 70, 80, or even 90 hours a week,” Mar said on Wednesday while standing in the middle of Market Street with drivers and other protesters in front Uber’s HQ. “We are here today because we stand in solidarity with the Uber drivers. “

Mar has been in recent talks with the city’s tech giants about how to deal with the influx of wealth occurring due to what he calls an “earthquake of IPOs” that threaten to exacerbate an already wide wealth gap in San Francisco and around Silicon Valley.

Wednesday’s worldwide strike, which also included drivers from competing ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Juno, percolated into the national political ether, gaining support from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker, Representatives Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have previously supported the efforts of Uber drivers to earn a living wage.

In 2011, San Francisco began offering myriad tax breaks hoping to lure tech companies into the city. To deal with the consequences of so much wealth in one place, Mar proposes to restore tax rates to their previous levels of a 1.5 percent payroll tax rate.

The San Francisco protest was held in concert with a handful of actions around the country and around the world. The scene at the San Francisco protest was considerably bigger than a similar action by drivers targeting Lyft before that company’s IPO in March.

As Wednesday’s strike was ongoing, Uber apparently tried to incentivize both drivers and riders to cross the picket line and do business with them anyway. Drivers reported the company was offering them bonuses while some riders say they saw discount coupons luring them to hire a ride.

This content was originally published here.

Lyft’s response to ADA lawsuit: Sorry, we’re “not in the transportation business”

Lyft’s response to ADA lawsuit: Sorry, we’re “not in the transportation business”

Lyft wants a federal court to believe that “it is not in the transportation business.”

In a federal class-action lawsuit filed in Westchester County, New York, the company claims that it is merely a tech company and not subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Yes, the company that wants to be a kinder and better version of its archrival Uber is in court, trying to find ways to avoid making transportation more accessible for people living with disabilities.

According to Politico, the class-action lawsuit was filed against Lyft in August 2017 by White Plains resident Harriet Lowell and Westchester Disabled on the Move, for the company’s failure to provide accessible vehicles to equitably serve people living with disabilities who just want to take a Lyft. The suit comes in the wake of a settlement with New York City, where Lyft, Uber, and Via agreed to “service at least 80% of requests for wheelchair-accessible vehicles in under 10 minutes and 90% in under 15 minutes by mid-2021,” per Politico.

Considering that the New York City subway system is barely accessible, having ride shares as an option could be life-changing for people with disabilities, but there’s even more at stake, since the lawsuit could conceivably force the companies to make their systems more accessible nationwide.

For its part, Lyft disputes its obligations under the ADA on the grounds that it’s not a transport company but is instead in the app business. However, it’s facing at least one other class-action lawsuit, this one in the Bay Area, claiming that it discriminates against people with disabilities.

We’ve reached out to Lyft for comment.

This content was originally published here.

U.S. Ride Share Drivers Will Strike On May 8th Ahead of Uber IPO

U.S. Ride Share Drivers Will Strike On May 8th Ahead of Uber IPO

Uber and Lyft drivers in major U.S. cities have united to strike during peak hours on Wednesday May 8th for two hours from 7AM to 9AM local time, according to a report from Autoblog. Cities which may see rush hour even more rush-y include New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles, among others. The strike is a protest of business and payment practices ahead of Uber’s planned IPO on May 9th with trading on the stock exchange to begin the following day.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance website features a post about the strike which lays out the plans of the strikers. The protest is an effort to influence Uber and Lyft to provide a more secure work environment and ensure that drivers can actually make a living on the income paid. Uber has already acknowledged that shifting drivers from independent contractors to full employees would be bad for its business model.

Even presidential candidates are weighing in on the strike.

Following the strike, drivers plan to rally at Uber and Lyft respective headquarters from 1PM the same day.

From the NYTWA post:

“With the IPO, Uber’s corporate owners are set to make billions, all while drivers are left in poverty and to go bankrupt.”

So, don’t cross the picket line. Don’t use a ride share app on Wednesday the 8th. Find another way to get around. Every human deserves a living wage.

This content was originally published here.

Ride-share drivers striking in Boston, other major cities

Ride-share drivers striking in Boston, other major cities

BOSTON (WHDH/AP) — Drivers for ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft planned to turn off their apps Wednesday to protest what they say are declining wages at a time when both companies are raking in billions of dollars from investors.

Organizers are demonstrating in 10 U.S. cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

They timed their protests in advance of Uber’s initial public stock offering, which is planned for Friday. Uber aims to raise $9 billion from investors and is expected to be valued at up to $91.5 billion.

It’s not the first time drivers for ride-hailing apps have staged protests. Strikes were planned in several cities ahead of Lyft’s IPO last month, although the disruption to riders appeared to be minimal. This time more cities are participating.

“Drivers built these billion dollar companies and it is just plain wrong that so many continue to be paid poverty wages while Silicon Valley investors get rich off their labor,” said Brendan Sexton, executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild, in a statement. “All drivers deserve fair pay.”

Felipe Martinez of the Boston Independent Driving Guild called on ride-sharing drivers in the city to switch off their app for 24 hours.

“You have people from the West Coast to the East Coast organizing a strategic strike and action on one day,” he said. “They have to listen, and their shareholders better listen. It’s not a good investment.”

In New York, striking drivers planned to shut down their services during the morning rush hour from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m., while drivers in Los Angeles are set to strike for 24 hours and set up a picket line at Los Angeles International Airport.

Lyft said its drivers’ hourly earnings have increased over the last two years, that 75% of its drivers work less than 10 hours per week to supplement existing jobs and that on average the company’s drivers earn over $20 an hour.

“We know that access to flexible, extra income makes a big difference for millions of people, and we’re constantly working to improve how we can best serve our driver community,” Lyft said.

Strikes are also planned in Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Diego and Stamford, Connecticut.

This content was originally published here.

#WhatsMyName Stresses Safety for Uber Riders – The New York Times

#WhatsMyName Stresses Safety for Uber Riders – The New York Times

Uber and Lyft have been criticized for not sufficiently evaluating their drivers and not prioritizing passenger safety, prompting some cities to place temporary bans or restrictions on the services. Both companies say passenger safety is their top priority and have stood by their background-check processes.

After the attack on Josephson, Uber re-upped its public safety awareness campaign called “Check Your Ride,” first introduced in 2017, urging users to take certain precautions: Match the license plate, car make and model to what the app displays, and check the driver’s photograph before getting in.

Of course, as critics put it: The onus should not be on women to vigilantly create safe spaces for themselves — and yet often it is.

Here are a few safety tips I always abide by.

Ask the driver’s name.

In addition to asking the driver for your name, ask your driver for his or her name and look closely to make sure the photo on the app matches. If the driver’s phone is mounted on the dashboard, look to see if it’s displaying your name.

Share your status.

Share your trip details with friends through the sharing option on the app. By adding your destination and sharing through a text, others can watch your ride, in real time, on a map. Uber and Via monitor drivers’ routes, sending alerts to their staff if the cars go off course.

Match the light.

Some Uber and Lyft vehicles have illuminated windshield icons called Beacon and Amp that change color to match a hue on a passenger’s app. If this is available to you, make sure the color matches. Lawmakers in South Carolina have proposed a law, named for Samantha Josephson, that would require it in all such vehicles.

This content was originally published here.