When I started driving part time for Uber and Lyft last year, I didn’t expect that one day I would spend 12 hours in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, waiting to testify about my experiences in front of the Connecticut Labor and Public Employees Committee. But as I kept making less and less money while doing more and more hours of work, I began to feel very strongly that something needed to change.
I have been driving for Uber and Lyft for about 10 months. I started driving in addition to my full-time job at the time because I needed to make extra money to pay for childcare for my two kids, who are 2 and 4. Soon after that, I decided to drive full time in order to have the flexible hours to care for the kids myself. I stayed home with them in the mornings while my wife was at her factory job, then I would go out driving to make money when she got home. I immediately loved driving. I find it relaxing. It feels completely natural, like it’s just a part of me. I also love driving passengers because I love people. Driving gives me a chance to meet a lot of different kinds of people and understand the different cultures we have in this country.
But over the last few months, it has gotten harder and harder to make a living this way. The number of Uber and Lyft drivers in Connecticut has grown substantially, making it difficult to find passengers. Then, the companies significantly lowered their pay rates this winter. These days, I have to drive between 88 and 100 hours a week in order to make a living for me and my family. Driving this many hours is a problem.
Of course this situation is hard for drivers. I hate having to be away from my wife and young children for so many hours of the week. And it’s hard to make so little money. I regularly earn less than Connecticut’s minimum wage of $10.10, when you subtract the high expenses required to maintain a car. I am barely breaking even.
But this situation has also become unsafe for riders — and for everyone else on the road. To drive safely, drivers have to be well-rested and mentally stable. When we have to work this many hours, we do not have enough time to be well-rested. So many drivers have told me the same story. They feel like they have to speed to finish rides more quickly to get to the next one. Some drivers even sleep in their cars between shifts on the road because they can’t afford the longer breaks that would be required for a good night’s sleep. Personally, I try hard to get enough sleep, and I probably manage to do better than most. But I’m still always tired.
The worst part is, I know that Uber and Lyft are making huge amounts of money each time a passenger pays me for a ride — sometimes as much as 50 percent of the money the rider pays. Uber and Lyft drivers want to keep our passengers safe. Most of the drivers I talk to love driving, like I do. But we also want to earn enough money to provide our families with their basic needs. If something doesn’t change, we will continue to be stretched thinner and thinner just to scrape by. That isn’t fair for anyone.
This is why we are asking the Connecticut legislature to pass Senate Bill 989, which would very modestly limit the amount of money that Uber and Lyft are able to take from the drivers for each ride, and would provide some basic labor protections for drivers. Of course, I believe that drivers deserve to work with dignity and to be paid adequately for their labor. But the public interest is also at stake.
Connecticut lawmakers should pass this bill, because it will keep passengers, and the public, safe.