How the Chicago Rideshare Advocates are Leading the Fight for Driver Rights

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In 2013 Barb Lloyd became the 89th Lyft driver in Chicago, and she was truly excited for the opportunity. 

You see, back in those days being a Lyft driver in one of it’s biggest markets was kind of a big deal. Some drivers would drive around with Lyft’s famous giant mustache on the front of their cars, and many drivers were VERY active in helping recruit passengers.

“I was one of those drivers that was on the frontlines handing out flyers to passengers and really helping grow the business,” says Barbara. “And that’s one of the biggest reasons why I’m so disappointed with how these companies are treating drivers. Some of us have truly helped build these companies.”

We all remember the Lyft pink mustache days!

Since becoming a Lyft driver in 2013 and an Uber driver sometime after, Barb has seen more rate cuts then she can keep track of along with a slew of other changes that she says are making it impossible for drivers to make real money.

“It’s gotten to the point where if you don’t drive 80 hours a week, you can’t make a living doing this. Personally I can’t afford to do this full-time anymore” says Barb

Barb’s growing frustrations with the major Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft have led her to cofound the Chicago Rideshare Advocacy group that is leading the fight for driver rights in Chicago.

Barb leading a peaceful protest in Chicago

Today, we want to lay out some of the group’s most important initiatives and talk about why they feel they are so important.

These initiatives include:

  1. Increasing per-mile rate and base fare
  2. Reinstituting the “old surge” modal
  3. Adding a driver cap
  4. Implementing city supervised vehicle inspections

Let’s dive into the issues!

Issue #1: Increase the per-mile rate and base fare

Uber and Lyft understand that the number one thing that passengers want is cheaper rides, that’s why they’ve been engaging in a price war to see who can have the lowest rates for years. 

The problem with this is that at the end of the day, it’s been the drivers that have seen the negative impact on their bottom line as the companies have repeatedly cut driver pay rates.

In some cities, drivers got paid as much as $1.40 per mile and $.80 per minute in 2014, and now drivers are making just $$.60 per mile and $.40 per minute in some markets.

Barb wants this to change ASAP.

“One of the great things about AB5 is that gives us drivers massive leverage,” says Barb. “Now Uber and Lyft are going to need to come to the table and talk about these things like rate cuts or else, they’re going to risk AB5 in places like Chicago, Philadelphia and more”

Drivers are divided on whether AB5 is going to be a good or bad thing for drivers, but one thing that I think everyone can agree on is that the legislation gives rideshare advocacy groups leverage that they’ve never had before.

The threat of an AB5 in multiple cities and drivers across the country, and the world, needing to become employees is exactly the leverage that Barb and the Chicago Rideshare Advocacy group believes it needs.

Issue #2: Bring back the old surge

Last year Uber and Lyft started to unveil a new surge model for rideshare drivers, and drivers hated it. In a survey taken earlier this year, we asked hundreds of drivers flat out “Do you feel you make as much money from surges now after upgrading to the new Uber Driver App?” 103 out of 145 respondents to this question had a negative answer indicating that they did NOT feel like they were making as much money from surges now after upgrading to the new Uber Driver App.

“The new surge basically enables the rideshare companies to charge surge pricing to the passengers, but the drivers don’t really see that money.” Said Barb, “A passenger could be paying $75 for a ride because of a 2x surge, but drivers are getting paid a base rate plus a bonus of just a few dollars. It’s pretty ridiculous.”

Drivers are clearly not getting paid as much as they used to with these new surge models, and that’s why one of the most important aspects of The Chicago Rideshare Advocacy Group’s plan is to reimplement the old surge model that ensured that drivers got their fair share of the surge fee.

Issue #3: Create a rideshare driver cap

Barb is an amazing storyteller, that’s what I absolutely loved about talking to her.

And one of the most interesting stories she told me was about how drivers have been coming to Chicago from as far as Oklahoma to drive.

You see, drivers in smaller markets such as Stillman, Oklahoma just don’t get that many rides because of the smaller population. So when Uber started to offer sign on bonuses that required drivers to get a certain number of rides that just wasn’t doable in a smaller town, drivers in these markets needed to figure out a way to hit their ride quote to get their bonus.

Chicago is an open market, meaning any driver can go there and drive, and it’s the biggest city in the midwest.

So drivers from smaller markets like Springfield, Stillman, Des Moines, and other cities will actually drive to Chicago for a few days at a time to take advantage of the higher demand in Chicago.

The problem with this, of course, is that it displaces the drivers already in Chicago and disrupts the supply/demand equilibrium.

This is one of the key issues that Barb and the Chicago Rideshare Advocacy group want to tackle in their legislation along with capping driver supply similar to what New York City did.

“The difference between what we want and what New York City did is that we want to make sure that the cap is per DRIVER… Not per car” says Barb.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard drivers calling for driver caps, it’s actually quite common to hear this brought up in rideshare circles. It is new, however, that we’re hearing a group actively working toward a driver cap and not a car cap.

Issue #4: Vehicle inspections performed by the City

The Chicago driver advocacy group isn’t just interested in improving the earnings power of drivers, they are also keenly aware that saftey is a HUGE issue.

That’s why they want cities to perform vehicle inspections to ensure every rideshare vehicle is road ready.

“The last time I went for an inspection, the guy took about 90 seconds to do a brief overview of my car and cleared it. That was it. Literally 90 seconds.” says Barb “ There is no way that’s actually keeping these cars off the road.”

Safety is a major concern for both drivers and passengers, so any way that we can ensure that drivers are staying safe on the road should be a no brainer.

Where things stand

If you ask Barb, she’ll tell you that the Chicago Rideshare Advocacy Group is just getting started… and I believe her.

They’ve grown from just an idea to a group of 1000’s of drivers in the Chicago area that are in the ear of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

“We’ve been talking to Lori Lightfoot and her team since the primaries,” says Barb. “Starting to talk to them early has been really helpful for us.”

Barb and her team are planning multiple events for the rest of the year including a demonstration outside of Soldier Field sometime this fall. Gridwise will be sharing this information with rideshare drivers as this and other rideshare advocacy groups plan more events.

How you can learn more?

To learn more about the Chicago Rideshare Advocacy Group, check out their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CHICAGORIDESHAREADVOCATES/ and sign up to get on their newsletter, follow their journey, and help the cause!

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