Black cab drivers in London tend to dislike Uber, saying that its lower fares and lower barriers to entry undermine their trade.
But there’s another complicated layer running underneath all of that. Many Uber drivers are non-white immigrants, while most black cab drivers are white and British.
A New York Times article examining the broader politics of Uber in London points out the demographic disparity between Uber and black cab drivers.
Here are the stats from Transport for London showing that the majority of black cab drivers are white and British:
The demographics look quite different for private hire drivers, which includes minicab drivers and Uber.
According to the New York Times article, Uber receives hundreds of complaints a month from its drivers about racist abuse from black cab drivers, including racist slurs like “Go back to your country!”. In one anecdote, a cab driver told a Muslim, female Uber driver that she couldn’t drive and to “take off” her scarf.
And while most Londoners — including an Uber driver interviewed for the article — voted to remain in the EU last year, most black cab drivers speaking to the newspaper voted to leave.
This is how one black cab driver, Paul Walsh, explained the way he voted.
“London has a great history of taking in refugees: the Huguenots, the Russians, the Jews after World War II,” he said. “But there is a difference between refugees and economic migrants.”
“They come here and push down our living standards,” he added. “There comes a day where you have to say, ‘Stop.'”
Walsh said it was “not a racist thing” and that “lots of cabbies are Jewish and Irish.”
Ultimately, both the New York Times article and broader evidence suggest that neither the Uber driver or the black cab driver is really winning.
Black cab drivers who have invested £45,000 in their cars now aren’t getting enough fares. One said: “Most weeks you’re just trying to cover your costs.”
And Uber driver Zahra Bakkali isn’t faring much better. Despite taking home £300 a week in Uber fares, her family still relies on benefits. Life’s became even tougher when Uber raised its commission on fares from 20% to 25%.