Uber and Lyft drivers strike over wages and working conditions – .

Uber and Lyft drivers strike over wages and working conditions – .

Uber and Lyft drivers who join strike across California on Wednesday send their message to Washington, in the first such strike by taxi drivers to rally support for national legislative changes to improve their operations. working conditions.
The 24-hour strike, which began at midnight on Wednesday, aims to push Congress to pass the Right to Organize Protection Act – a federal bill that would allow contractors to unionize if they choose, have declared the participating drivers.

It comes at a time of growing demand for ridesharing services in Los Angeles and other major cities – as people venture to restaurants and bars – and not enough drivers, as many have been off work for a while. pandemic and never came back because they said the pay wasn’t good enough anymore.

“I hit just because the drivers never had a chance to negotiate with the company,” LA driver Ben Valdez said. “They never asked us how much we wanted to be paid. They just change rates and programs indiscriminately as they see fit. ”

It is not known how many drivers joined the strike, which, along with accompanying rallies scheduled for Wednesday in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, was organized by the Rideshare Drivers United group of drivers.

Outside Los Angeles International Airport, around 40 drivers and organizers dressed in neon green Rideshare Drivers United t-shirts demonstrated at Airplane Landing View Point, a small park adjacent to LAX, before taking to direct towards the airport.

“This is the way gig businesses operate – they take the money out of the hands of the workers,” Daniel Russell, a former carpool driver, said on a stage as the planes roared overhead. Russell stopped driving at the start of the pandemic for safety reasons.

The rider group said it was the first such strike since Californians overwhelmingly voted to pass Proposition 22, a bill that enshrined contract status for many workers in concert. This has allowed companies like Uber and Lyft, which funded the measure, to continue to rely on a relatively cheap workforce without having to offer the list of benefits and protections that employees receive. habitually.

Many carpool service drivers say their incomes and ability to control their working conditions have deteriorated since the passage of Proposition 22 less than a year ago, and with Wednesday’s strike, they say: nothing.

By directing their protest against US lawmakers, they are changing their usual approach, which involves lobbying Uber and Lyft directly to increase fares as well as transparency about what passengers pay and how much of that goes to drivers.

Some drivers say changes to their working conditions in the months following the adoption of Proposition 22 in November have made them feel they have less control over how they do their jobs and over how they do their jobs. compensation they receive. They say changes Uber and Lyft implemented over the past year have made working hours and the size of their paychecks less reliable.

This includes lower pay per kilometer for airport trips and the reversal of some work features that have made work more flexible and transparent.

Uber did not respond to a request for comment. Lyft referred to the Times to Protect App-Based Drivers and Services, the coalition that supported Proposition 22 and includes Lyft, Uber, and community groups. A representative of the coalition said that drivers Uber and Lyft had benefited from the passage of the bill in some ways, including the possibility of receiving assistance with health care, including subsidies.

As of April 2021, Uber drivers in Los Angeles earn $ 26.85 an hour while those in San Francisco earn $ 25.28 an hour, the representative said. Full-time Lyft drivers are also eligible for up to $ 4,800 in healthcare grants.

The group of taxi drivers said they neither seek nor expect immediate changes or concessions from the companies. Instead, the striking drivers want the ability to negotiate a contract with Uber and Lyft through a union so they can help define the terms of their work, including fair and transparent payment.

The PRO law, which was passed by the House in March, would expand certain labor protections – including penalizing employers for retaliation against workers who attempt to unionize – and could allow contractors to unionize if they choose to. do it.

Although the legislation has garnered support from Democratic senators, three have yet to agree to co-sponsor the bill: Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.); Mark Kelly (D-Arizona); and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz).

“Without the PRO Act, drivers have no control over what companies choose to do,” said Brian Dolber, organizer of Rideshare Drivers United and assistant professor of communications at Cal State San Marcos. “They are completely as they please. ”

Dolber pointed to a study commissioned by the City of San Francisco and conducted by the Institute for Social Transformation at UC Santa Cruz, as well as the labor rights organization Jobs With Justice, which found that the incomes of Drivers after expenses in San Francisco are as low as $ 360 per week for transit workers and $ 224 per week for delivery people.

Prior to this year, some drivers found ways to earn more, by only making trips during peak hours or by rejecting trips that would not be lucrative. Drivers say recent changes have made it more difficult for them to have that kind of foresight or control.

For example, when Uber and Lyft rallied heavily in 2020 to secure support for Proposition 22, Uber rolled out features that made it easier for drivers to tell how much a ride would cost and where they were going – an effort to prove that his contract works. was flexible and gave drivers control. Uber has since reversed this functionality, among others.

Uber also reduced the amount paid per mile for trips to and from major airports like Los Angeles International – where drivers hold a rally on Wednesday – and San Francisco International. This has caused backlogs at airports in recent weeks as air travel has resumed.

At LAX, the rate per mile has dropped from 60 cents to 32 cents. Valdez, the LA driver, said a ride from LAX to San Diego – roughly 120 miles – that cost between $ 100 and $ 130 now fetched between $ 65 and $ 85.

Many drivers who stopped working during the pandemic due to illness or COVID-19 precautions are in no rush to get back to work because the lower pay “makes you feel less like a person,” said Esterphanie St. Juste, a driver and rally organizer.

“You’re worth 32 cents. This is what they say. And I’m in no rush to go work for a company like this.


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