Thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers are planning to turn off their apps and strike Wednesday, the same day ride-share giant Uber is set to go public.
Chicago-area participants will join ride-share drivers in several states and dozens of cities around the country and world asking Uber and Lyft for higher wages. Though organizers in Chicago aren’t telling drivers to strike, thousands are expected to turn off their apps anyway with their colleagues in other cities.
Uber and Lyft have been in tight competition for years, and driver compensation has suffered because of it, said Barbara Lloyd, co-founder of Chicago Rideshare Advocates, the group organizing Wednesday’s efforts. That means it’s more difficult for Chicago-area drivers to pay for proper vehicle maintenance or make a living wage.
Now, weeks after Lyft went public and on the day Uber is set to debut on the public markets, it’s time to speak out, Lloyd said. She expects about 100 drivers to gather for a demonstration in the Loop at 3 p.m. Wednesday, then move toward City Hall to stage a protest.
“At this point, our only option is to get the cities and states involved in regulating,” said Lloyd, who drives for Lyft. “The companies will never give us back what we originally were promised. Not when they’re making billions of dollars.”
Chicago Rideshare Advocates has asked the city to step in and help by capping the number of ride-share drivers, ensuring drivers receive surge charges and an increased base fare, performing vehicle inspections and enforcing stricter rules regarding driver investigations, among other requests.
As of December, almost 109,000 ride-share drivers were registered with the city.
Uber and Lyft work to continually improve driver experience, representatives from both companies said.
Lyft drivers have seen their hourly earnings increase over the last two years, company spokesman Eric Smith said in a statement. He also said more than 75 percent of drivers use Lyft as a supplement and drive less than 10 hours a week.
Uber has taken steps to help drivers such as increasing per-minute rates, providing certain kinds of insurance coverage and entering a partnership with Arizona State University that covers some drivers’ tuition, spokeswoman Caroline Wellford said in a statement.
“Drivers are at the heart of our service — we can’t succeed without them — and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road,” Wellford said in the statement.
Representatives of incoming Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the city did not immediately respond to requests for comment.