Rideshare drivers demand higher wages as Uber prepares for a multi-billion dollar IPO

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A driver takes part in a protest against Uber and other app-based ride-hailing companies outside the Uber Greenlight offices in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., May 8, 2019. Credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Uber and Lyft drivers around the world are on strike, protesting low wages and no benefits. They’re also urging riders to boycott the apps for the day. This comes as Uber goes public later this week, which could earn executives billions of dollars.

In Los Angeles, a group of drivers demonstrated at LAX, including James Hicks, a full-time Uber driver and member of the Rideshare Drivers United organizing committee.

He tells Press Play that drivers are still reeling from a 25% pay cut they got on March 11. Some Uber drivers are homeless and others need public assistance, and it’s gotten tougher to make a living, he says.

“I heard today that one of our CEOs is going to make $200 million, assuming that the IPO goes well. It's just unnecessary that they can be worth that much money, continue to cut driver fares, and they're still not done. I read earlier today that they're going to continue to cut driver fares to maximize their financial profit. And they know that we're going to be even more angry. So they're showing that they really do not care about the people who make their business works,” he says.

The average hourly wage for an Uber or Lyft driver is about $10 per hour. Hicks says that’s not enough to make ends meet, especially if you own or rent the car.

Hicks says rideshare drivers are pushing for $28 per hour minimum. After expenses, that wage would be about $17 per hour. For drivers who live in LA and New York, where rent and gas prices keep increasing, living on $17 an hour is still tough.

Hicks says the riders he’s spoken with say they wouldn’t mind paying a little more if that means drivers can earn a living.

But he notes that the price of rides may not go up at all. “What Uber and Lyft are doing is they are price gouging the consumer, and they’re wage stealing from the driver, which basically means that the rider will pay a certain amount and they think that most of that money is going to the driver, when it's not.”

Does tipping make up for drivers’ lower wages? Hicks says not everyone tips, though it’s nice and valued when it does happen. But he doesn’t want to rely on tips to help pay his bills.

Though not all rideshare drivers knew this protest was happening, more and more have been getting involved since January. Hicks points out that 120 people showed up to the first strike in January, then 350 people showed up to the strike on March 25, and there are about 500-600 people striking today. He says the momentum is gaining worldwide, including Nairobi, England, and Australia.

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Rosalie Atkinson

Credits

Guest:
James Hicks - Uber driver; Rideshare Drivers United organizing committee

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Yael Even Or, Alexandra Sif Tryggvadottir, Rosalie Atkinson, Rebecca Mooney, Amy Ta, Adriana Cargill