On Monday morning, a group of New York City-based Uber drivers protested the company outside of its Long Island City, Queens office.
The protest was planned by a group of drivers known as the Uber Drivers Network NYC. The group’s first protest happened last Monday at Uber’s offices. The disgruntled drivers have been protesting against Uber policies.
Last week, Uber reversed a policy that made its Black Car and SUV drivers pick up less-lucrative Uber XL and Uber X customers. But drivers are still unhappy.
A group of about 60 protesters showed up around 10 a.m. on Monday for the protest, carrying signs and a megaphone. “I’ve been driving for Uber for two years, and when I started, I loved it,” an Uber driver named Numan Tarik told Business Insider at the protest.
Tarik says Uber’s steep discounts, intended to give the company a competitive edge over competitors like Lyft and Gett, as well as yellow cabs, are hurting Uber drivers.
“Uber is charging us [drivers] 20% before they deduct New York sales tax. We have to get car washes daily, we get our cars detailed once a month, we get regular oil changes and pay for insurance.” Tarik said. According to Uber, these are just suggestions for its drivers, and not a company policy. Tarik also drives for competing car companies. “You can’t make a living working only for Uber.”
Protesters carried signs saying “Uber X should not be cheaper than a taxi” and “Uber: the most valuable asset is the drivers.”
The New York City Police Department also showed up for the protest. About six NYPD vehicles and a dozen officers were there to monitor the protest. NYPD blocked off access to 42 Road and monitored traffic on Jackson Avenue in front of Uber’s offices.
Oris Fortuna has been an Uber X driver for four months. He told Business Insider he quit his old job because he thought Uber would be a more lucrative way to make money.
“Since Uber implemented the 20% off discount on all Uber rides, I’ve been losing $US200 a week,” Fortuna said. “To make up for it, you have to work 20% more. That means more mileage and more gas. An $US8 trip is not worth it.” Fortuna wants better representation for himself and other Uber drivers. “There’s no union representing us, so we have to protest.”
Uber NYC’s general manager Josh Mohrer was at the protest as well.
“We have, and have always had, an open-door policy with our drivers,” Mohrer told Business Insider. “The majority of our drivers communicate with us. We’re always happy to welcome them and talk to them.”
Mohrer spoke to the journalists who had showed up to cover the protest, though he and the protesting Uber drivers didn’t communicate.
The group has been planning its protests and meetings largely via Facebook. On Friday, the drivers held a meeting in Queens’ Forest Park to meet face-to-face for the first time. Roughly 100 drivers showed up for the informational meeting, which started at 4 pm and went until 7:30, with Uber drivers individually voicing their concerns about the company.
“Uber wants us to have all these amenities — water bottles, mints for our customers — but they’re cutting the prices. So how can I, as a professional driver, provide all of this?” asked Ajit Singh at Friday’s meeting.
The Uber Drivers Network NYC group plans to continue protesting Uber at its offices.
Hilal Aissani, an Uber SUV driver, is unhappy with Uber because of what it tells customers about tipping their drivers. “Uber tells the customer that their tip for the driver is included, but it isn’t,” Aissani said at Monday’s protest. “Drivers never see a dollar of that tip money.” Uber hasn’t explained how its tipping policy works — a blog post on its website says that by default, 20% of the customer’s fare is paid to the driver as a gratuity.