- Thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers were preparing to go on strike Wednesday to protest falling wages.
- The Guardian spoke with drivers joining the protest who had resorted to sleeping in their cars to make enough money to live.
- Screenshots from their phones showed that for some rides, Uber had taken a 70% cut of the fare.
- The strikes come ahead of Uber’s initial public offering, which one union leader said promised to be an “orgy of greed,” cashing in on what he called “one of the most abusive business models ever to emerge from Silicon Valley.”
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The Guardian spoke with multiple drivers who it said regularly slept in their cars in parking lots around San Francisco to avoid commuting home.
“Drivers are the main source of profit for these companies,” one of the drivers, named Sultan Arifi, told The Guardian. “They are not losing money, we are losing money. We are losing time – working into late nights, sleeping in places like this, because you have to, you have to do it to make money.”
At the heart of Wednesday’s strike is a demand for better pay, specifically in relation to how big a cut Uber and Lyft take from each fare. In Uber’s financial filings ahead of its initial public offering, which promises to make billions for investors, it revealed that its average take rate increased to 21.7% in 2018 from 20.5% in 2017.
Some of the drivers The Guardian spoke with, however, said Uber had taken much heftier chunks of their fares. Screenshots showed that in some instances drivers had received as little as 30% of a ride fare.
“Every week I have to make more trips to cover my costs,” said a driver named Mohammad Sadiq Safi, who The Guardian said had completed 130 rides in five days before speaking with the newspaper.
In response to The Guardian’s report an Uber spokeswoman told Business Insider: “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. Whether it’s more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections or fully-funded four-year degrees for drivers or their families, we’ll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.”
Drivers in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, London, and Glasgow were set to go on strike Wednesday, with plans to turn their engines off for up to 24 hours in some locations. Demonstrations were to be held outside Uber’s London headquarters at 1 p.m.
“Uber’s flotation is shaping up to be an unprecedented international orgy of greed as investors cash in on one of the most abusive business models ever to emerge from Silicon Valley,” said James Farrar, a branch chair at the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain. “It is the drivers who have created this extraordinary wealth but they continue to be denied even the most basic workplace rights.”
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