On the eve of Uber’s long-anticipated IPO, ride-hail drivers will go on strike to protest the falling wages and shaky labor practices on which the company and its competitors are built, despite the firms’ somewhat baffling valuations.
On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, drivers in cities across the country will log off of Uber, Lyft, and Juno’s platforms between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time or throughout the day, and they’re urging riders to do the same.
In the past week, a surge of drivers’ groups around the country and world have signed on for the strike, while an increasing number of politicians and public figures have expressed their support. Protests at major transportation hubs and company offices are also scheduled in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and London.
The group Rideshare Drivers United – Los Angeles, which has helped organize the strike through different time zones, commented in a statement that its members will hold a 24-hour strike as well as a rally at Los Angeles International Airport to protest the “withering wages [and] other abuses inflicted by Uber and Lyft as both companies launch their IPOs.”
In NYC, drivers will log off during the morning rush hour and then convene near Uber and Lyft’s headquarters in Queens for a 1pm rally against the companies’ practices.
New York Taxi Workers Alliance executive director Bhairavi Desai commented in a statement, “Wall Street investors are telling Uber and Lyft to cut down on driver income, stop incentives, and go faster to Driverless Cars, [and] Uber and Lyft wrote in their S1 filings that they think they pay drivers too much already. With the IPO, Uber’s corporate owners are set to make billions, all while drivers are left in poverty and go bankrupt.”
Henry Rolands, an NYTWA member and Lyft driver, also commented in a statement, “I voted to go on strike because drivers need job security. We don’t know if we will have a job from one day to the next. And we make pennies while the app companies make billions off the backs of drivers who suffer and suffer. Uber takes advantage of minorities and poor people.”
Over the past few years, Uber and Lyft drivers have organized citywide-to-international strikes with increasing frequency, often following the latest in a series of wage cuts that drivers say have lowered their pay by half (or worse) over time.
Drivers have also sought to call attention to the companies’ particularly stringent contract terms, which have allowed drivers to be summarily kicked off of the apps or forced them to pursue arbitration in the Netherlands, among other things.
In March, following Uber’s latest wage cut in the region, Los Angeles driver Luis Vasquez summarized his three years of experience with the companies by phone.
“Every day it’s getting worse,” Vasquez said. “Uber keeps hiring more and more drivers, who don’t know the system yet, and are easier to take advantage of. [The companies] are squeezing drivers so much, and we’re the ones suffering.”