May 4, 2019; The Drive
As rideshare company Uber readies for its initial public offering this coming week, drivers for Uber and Lyft are organizing strikes in at least eight major cities.
The strike is to occur between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in cities across the United States, including Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. The action has been coordinated by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), and NYC drivers plan to protest at Uber and Lyft’s headquarters in New York at 1 p.m.
The drivers have been driven to protest over the pay differential between front-line drivers and the company’s executives. This, of course, cuts to the very heart of what is wrong with the gig economy—it’s too much like the rest of the economy in its wealth distribution. Some readers may recall our coverage of Douglass Rushkoff’s discussion of the promise of cooperatively owned and managed models for job platforms. Meanwhile, as it is currently organized, Uber is yet another entity that’s beholden first and foremost to Big Capital’s needs.
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Sonam Lama, an Uber driver since 2015, said in a statement from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, “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 gig economy is all about exploiting workers by taking away our rights. It has to stop. Uber is the worst actor in the gig economy. Uber claims that we are independent contractors even though they set our rates and control our workday. Uber executives are getting rich off of our work, they should treat us with respect. We are striking to send a message that drivers will keep rising up.”
NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai says the company’s plans for the IPO upped the stakes for the drivers. “Wall Street investors are telling Uber and Lyft to cut down on driver income, stop incentives, and go faster to driverless cars. Uber and Lyft wrote in their S1 filings that they think they pay drivers too much already. With the IPO, Uber’s corporate owners are set to make billions, all while drivers are left in poverty and go bankrupt.”
New York is the state that passed the Freelance isn’t Free Act in 2017, so putting this campaign’s organizing center there is apt. This action carries the promise of next steps, since equity issues are increasingly core to public discourse on the economy.—Ruth McCambridge