The embattled, yet widely loved app-based rideshare companies Uber and Lyft are yet again in the crosshairs of disgruntled contractors in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Drivers from both companies are protesting the businesses unwillingness to change corporate policies classifying drivers from independent contractors to part-time/full-time employees, which would also imply employees are entitled to certain workers benefits and protections.
According to an article from Slate, the primary issue at the core of this whole dilemma is the inability of drivers (the independent contractors) to unionize, therefore being “isolated from one another.” Journalist April Glaser explains this setback, however “hasn’t stopped them from organizing by creating worker groups to advocate for their collective demands. In Los Angeles, drivers picketed outside the Uber Greenlight Hub, a driver assistance center in Redondo Beach.” This public protest was only one of many, with the main visible protest occurring in San Francisco where “drivers demonstrated in the rain outside the Omni Hotel, where potential investors were slated to meet ahead of Lyft’s IPO.” Obviously, someone from Lyft was tipped off of the potential bad publicity, since the meeting location was moved last minute to the Olympic Club, “an ultra-exclusive private club and golf course” miles away.
Glaser went on the streets to meet with several of the protesting drivers to discover the root of their opposition to Uber and Lyft’s treatment of drivers. One such driver, Tyler Sandness, told Glaser “What Lyft and Uber are doing to the people who work for them is ridiculous.” Sandness went on to explain that “We’re [the drivers] generating so much value, and we provide a service that everybody needs here in Los Angeles, but we’re not sharing in those profits. Instead, Lyft and Uber have seen it fit to subsidize their IPO’s on the backs of the drivers.” The rates in which drivers earn a profit from driving have also been effected prior to the IPO announcement.
Sandness told Glaser that “Uber is now dropping their rates down from 80 cents a mile to 60 cents a mile. And to give context, their IRS says it takes about 58 cents a mile to operate a vehicle, so Uber is handing basically a two-penny-a-mile profit to their drivers.”
With protests beginning to spread ahead of the big moves for Uber and Lyft, it is not known whether the protests will be enough to curb consumer habits or to make Uber and Lyft come to the table to discuss major changes with the lifeblood of their companies.