Uber drivers from Los Angeles and Orange counties plan to gather in Redondo Beach on Monday to protest a recent 25 percent wage cut and will demand that drivers earn at least $28 an hour.
The one-day strike is being coordinated by Rideshare Drivers United, an independent association that seeks fair pay, transparency and a voice for drivers who work for Uber, Lyft and other rideshare services.
“We plan to make some noise and create a ruckus to get the 25 percent back that they stole,” said Rideshare spokesman James Hicks, who also drives for Uber.
An abrupt change
The change, which impacts drivers in Los Angeles County and north Orange County, was abruptly put into effect March 11 and accompanied by a brief message:
“In September 2018, we increased the per-minute rate and minimum fares in hopes of making it more worthwhile to drive with Uber in L.A.,” the company said. “Unfortunately, these changes did not have the intended impact.”
As a result, Uber said it was increasing the per-minute rate drivers earn but reducing the per-mile rate and minimum fare. The per-minute rate jumped from 15 cents to 21 cents. But the minimum fare dropped from $3.75 to $2.62 and the more crucial per-mile rate dropped from 80 cents to 60 cents.
In a statement issued Friday, Uber acknowledged it changed the rates but said the company has introduced a Quest promotion that allows drivers to earn bonuses based on the number of rides they provide.
“These changes will make rates comparable to where they were in September while giving drivers more control over how they earn by allowing them to build a model that fits their schedule best,” the company said.
Working longer for less money
The strategy isn’t resonating with some drivers who complain they must now work harder to earn less money.
“I was working 55 to 60 hours a week and making anywhere from $1,100 to $2,000 a week,” said Corey Mills, 39, of Chino Hills. “Now I have to work doubly hard to get the same pay. Last week I worked 82 hours and made $1,000.”
Hicks is also feeling the squeeze. He was working five to six days a week and making $1,100 to $1,300. But that has changed. “Now it’s $700 to $800 a week,” he said.
Costs add up
The $28-an-hour minimum Uber drivers are seeking might seem high to observers. But Hicks said it would help cover a litany of costs drivers pay out of their own pockets, including gas, insurance, vehicle maintenance and registration, tires, road tolls and parking tickets.
Monday’s protest, including a rally and press conference from 11 a.m. to noon, will be held at the Uber Greenlight Redondo Beach hub, at 2400 Marine Ave. in Redondo Beach.
Representatives with Lyft could not be reached Friday to discuss any rate changes it may have recently implemented, or whether disgruntled Uber drivers might be defecting to Lyft.
Report details driver woes
The woes surrounding rideshare drivers have been mounting. Many such drivers are struggling to make ends meet, according to a 2018 study from UCLA.
“Over a third of drivers buy or lease their car so they can drive for one of these companies, and this locks them into a variety of costs,” said Janna Shadduck-Hernandez, project director for the report and a faculty member at UCLA. “Many of these drivers initially see this as a novelty and an easy way to make some added income.
“But with all of the expenses they end up paying, some drivers find they are not even making minimum wage,” she said.
When asked what their most pressing concerns were, 77 percent of drivers surveyed for the UCLA report pointed to vehicle wear and tear. Other top concerns include ridesharing insurance, safety, taxes and traffic citations.
Rideshare Drivers United said drivers lack the basic protections traditional employees have because rideshare companies classify them as independent contractors.