- Uber and Lyft drivers around the world participated in coordinated protests and strikes Wednesday.
- Many drivers have complained of falling pay and a lack of transparency from the companies.
- Business Insider has spoken with dozens of drivers to find out their biggest frustrations with the platforms and why they are striking.
Drivers for Uber and Lyft planned work stoppages and demonstrations around the world Wednesday to demand higher wages from the ride-hailing companies ahead of Uber’s massive initial public offering.
Protests were scheduled in at least 14 cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, and Glasgow. Organising groups have encouraged consumers to join in their movement by not requesting rides.
Over a period of months, Business Insider has spoken with dozens of Uber and Lyft drivers to learn more about their experience on the platforms. More often than not, their complaints revolve around a lack of transparency from the companies and, in many cases, consistently declining pay.
In new research published Tuesday, the Economic Policy Institute found that Uber drivers on average took home the equivalent of about $US9.21 an hour in wages after Uber fees, vehicle expenses, and other related costs.
Here is why some drivers said they were protesting Wednesday, in their own words:
Scott, Los Angeles
“Living in LA and getting paid .60 a mile and 22 cents for wait time is a joke for the second-largest city. Now gas prices are soaring over $US4 a gallon – I would think Uber should be considerate and bump our fees up. Where is justice in our society with idiots running companies like this that don’t respect the drivers who got them to party. As they say, the fish stinks from the head down! Corporate corruption at the helm undermining the drivers who work so hard to hardly able to pay bills today.
Tadios, Boise, Idaho
“I have driven for seven months for Uber. I bought an Infiniti QX60 to drive for Uber Select, but after I spent $US27,500 they deactivated my account for no reason. I tried to contact them, but it’s so hard to get in contact with a human.”
Ericka, Los Angeles
“The pay sucks. Lyft was letting the driver have 75% and they kept 25% until about a year ago. Now they take 50%. Most riders don’t tip. It pisses me off when I pick up a party of four and I only get $US3.75 for driving four people and no one tips.”
Barry, La Quinta, California
“I recently had a ride where the passenger paid $US39.78 for a 3.11-mile trip, and I was paid $US4.49. There was no surge at the time on my driver app. This is not an isolated event. I have numerous rides where Uber’s service fee exceeds my payment. When I questioned Uber, their response was nonresponsive.”
Aaron, Newark, New Jersey
“This part of the gig economy is usurious and exploits drivers. We are unarmed and unprotected. Law enforcement has no pathway to protect us from harm. In the beginning I was innocent. I took a fare to Paterson, New Jersey, to later find out that it was a drug deal gone wrong. My car took a .22-cal. round in the front hood from an unknown and unseen shooter. My passenger was an innocent-looking co-ed who I picked up from what appears to be a bogus address. Beyond this, the ride-share platform owners manipulate the drivers and steal their payouts.”
Sonam, New York
“I’m striking for my kid’s future. I have a 5-year-old son, and I drive for Uber to support him. But it’s becoming harder and harder. First Uber cut the rates, then they put too many cars on the roads so there weren’t enough fares to go around. In the IPO filing, Uber said drivers will only get more dissatisfied because they plan to cut our pay and stop incentives. We don’t want our wages to stay just minimum. We want Uber to answer to us, not to investors,” the four-year driver said via the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which is organising demonstrations on Wednesday.
Gerald, South Africa
“We as drivers of Uber don’t own the cars and make like 25,000 rand a month [$US1,740]. Our petrol is half of that, and half goes to the owner of the car. What is left? For us as a driver, nothing. How we can support our families?”
Kevin, Kansas City
“I’ve driven part-time for two years, and I would be ecstatic if Uber only took 25% of the total fare. The average is anywhere between 35% to 75% that Uber takes from what the rider pays. Short rides I get the minimum in my area of $US2.66 while Uber will charge the rider close to $US8.”
“We Uber drivers in Nigeria are not happy with the platform. Reason being that our roads are not too motorable, which simply means that we pay more to repair our cars. The 25% service fee on each ride is heartaching, and it makes us we the drivers not to have joy. The amount we take home doesn’t reach to pay bills. Majority of their partners hire cars to run the business.”
Varinder, New York
“Uber deactivated me five months ago without any reason. I went to the Uber office a few times and they refused to tell me why I was deactivated. I’ve been a professional driver in New York City since 1992 and I have never once gotten a traffic ticket or been in a car accident. My rating was always at a 4.89 or 4.9 out of the over 7,000 passengers I had in the four years I was driving full time for Uber to support my wife and two kids. I have one kid in high school and one in fifth grade,” the Lyft and Juno driver said via the NYTWA.
Jose, New York
“Uber has been reducing ‘promotions,’ as they call them for Uber Eats, which makes us have to do more deliveries in order to make the same amount we were making last year. Most people don’t tip either, or leave only $US1, which makes things worse.”
“The rate per trip has been decreasing every year, while the city is getting more expensive to live. When I started driving with Uber they said they will take 25% of the trip, but now we don’t know how much they are taking. Sometimes, the company will run annual background checks more than three times per year. When you call Uber Driver support to discuss the issue they will let you know that the third party is running a background check which may take seven to 15 days, which means you are out of work.”
The companies’ responses
Ahead of the demonstrations, both Uber and Lyft acknowledged that drivers were the most important element of their businesses. Here’s Uber’s 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. 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.”
“Lyft drivers’ hourly earnings have increased over the last two years, and they have earned more than $US10B on the Lyft platform. Over 75% drive less than 10 hours a week to supplement their existing jobs. On average, Lyft drivers earn over $US20 per hour. We know that access to flexible, extra income makes a big difference for millions of people, and we’re constantly working to improve how we can best serve our driver community.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.