Uber and Lyft drivers rallied to protest poor working conditions outside of the companies’ headquarters in Long Island City on Wednesday.
The rally was part of a nationwide strike by drivers who are asking for fare regulation, livable wages and job security. The timing of the strike was planned to coincide with Uber’s planned Initial Public Offering this Friday when the company will be selling its equity and no longer be privately owned. Since its founding, Uber has received over $24 billion in funding. New York City was the first to pass a minimum wage for ride-hailing drivers, which was set at $17.22 an hour and went into effect in January.
However, drivers in most places do not have a minimum wage, and the fares they earn are subject to change by companies like Uber and Lyft. A June 2018 report by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission found that prior to the minimum wage being set, 85% of drivers were making below $17.22 an hour. Besides low wages and inconsistent fares, drivers’ main complaint was deactivation.
Currently, drivers can be deactivated — essentially fired — without any court proceedings, leaving full-time drivers without a job if this is the case.
“The deactivation is the biggest problem because they promise drivers ‘Come with us, you’re going to make so much money, buy the cars for $60,000, 80,000,’” Co-founder of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance Javaid Tariq said. “And whenever Uber wants, they can [fire] them, when they [fire] them they are out of a job. How are they going to pay the mortgage of their cars? Bring food to their tables?”
Organizer and Outreach Coordinator with Independent Drivers Guild Sohail Raina said that he hopes the strike encourages ride-hailing companies to not only treat their drivers better, but also to allow drivers to share in the success of the company.
“Since [Uber is] coming out with their IPO, maybe they will give drivers some shares,” Raina said.
NYTWA founder Bhairavi Desai spoke at the rally and said that drivers are unhappy with Uber and Lyft because they do not keep their promises in terms of how much money drivers will earn.
She said that drivers have consistently been exploited, but the strike would be a turning point for drivers to begin fighting for better conditions and winning.
“There is no confusion among the drivers,” Desai said. “We know this was our day, we sent our message, we shook them up, hit their panic button and this is just the beginning.”
Email Victor Porcelli at [email protected] Additional reporting by Emily Mason.