What I learned at the rideshare driver protests in LA

Last Monday and Tuesday, rideshare drivers in L.A. came together for what may have been the largest gathering of rideshare drivers in history, as more than 200 drivers descended upon Uber’s LA Greenlight Hub in an effort to change how they were treated as drivers by the big rideshare companies.

And when an event that’s as important to rideshare drivers as these protests goes down, I want to be there to talk to drivers about why they are there, what their problems are, and how these problems can be solved.

So I went and met dozens of amazing and passionate rideshare drivers.

Myself with a couple of passionate LA rideshare drivers there to support the cause

I was able to talk to them about their experiences over the last few years and why now was the time to protest. And in today’s post, I want to share with you what we learned.

Drivers feel like they are losing their independence, without the benefits…

The catalyst for this rideshare driver protest was a 25% per mile pay cut for LA based rideshare drivers. But when you dig deeper, this was about the rideshare companies continuously stripping away flexibility from drivers.

Most people that become rideshare drivers do so at least in part because of the independence and flexibility the job provides.

There is no boss looking over your shoulder and no one to tell you when or where you need to drive. That’s what Uber drivers want, and for a while that’s what they felt they were receiving. But not anymore.

Over the past few years, rideshare companies have implemented numerous policies that drivers feel are stripping away the flexibility and independence that drove them to be drivers in the first place.

A big issue for drivers at the protest was independence

And with Uber further decreasing the base pay for drivers, they are again decreasing the flexibility of drivers.

You see, when Uber decreases earnings, they claim that drivers can make up the difference by taking advantage of certain promotions that are offered to them. The problem with that is that promotions only come around during certain days and times. Meaning if you want to maximize your earnings, you MUST drive when Uber tells you to drive.

So bye-bye flexibility.

When you combine that with the fact that Uber is doing other things like decreasing drivers’ ability to use destination filters and changing the surge from a multiple to a fixed rate , you start to find more than a few drivers whofeel like Uber needs to be reminded that the drivers are the ones that own their cars, own their costs, and own their labor.

“Uber doesn’t want to make us employees, but they want to tell us what to do like employees,” said Ricky, one LA driver that I spoke to. “If they aren’t providing me benefits, then stop trying to tell me when, where, and how to drive.”

Drivers want their 25% back… NOW!

Make no mistake about it, the number 1 thing that drivers at this protest want is for Uber to reverse their decision to slash driver pay-per-mile by 25%. Even though drivers make money per mile and per minute, this is still a significant pay decrease.

“It’s honestly ridiculous for them to think that they can cut our pay and just tell us to do some promotions to make up the difference.” Says another LA Uber driver. “They’re trying to control us, plain and simple.”

But they also have a LONG list of other demands

Not only do drivers want Uber to restore the old commission model, but they have a LONG list of other demands as well that includes things like fixing the surge pricing, adding emission standards to new vehicles added to the platform, and implementing a minimum wage model.

In fact, Rideshare Drivers United, who helped organize the protest, has released a “Drivers Bill of Rights” which lays out 13 demands that the company has.

These include:

  • 10% commission cap for Uber & Lyft
  • Pay drivers per mile & per minute rate en route to the passenger
  • Set hourly minimum pay matching New York City’s $27.86 per hour before expenses
  • Include a gas-price indexed surcharge in fare
  • Transparent, speedy, independent de-activation appeals process, with all discipline held to “just cause” standard
  • Show drivers the estimated fare payment & the trip destination before accepting trip
  • Show complete fare breakdown with Uber or Lyft’s take on passenger receipt
  • Uber & Lyft recognition of our independent, driver-led organization, to negotiate on behalf of drivers
  • The right to organize without retaliation
  • An elected driver-representative appointed to Uber & Lyft’s boards of directors
    Community Standards
  • Rideshare vehicle cap to eliminate unnecessary traffic & carbon emissions
  • Emission standards for all new vehicles added to the platforms
  • Uber & Lyft must share all vehicle data with local authorities for traffic management
This protest was about more than just the latest Uber pay decrease

At the March, drivers were incredibly vocal about many other topics.

“I’m mad about the pay cut but can we talk for a minute about this surge stuff? That used to be my bread and butter, but no more. You just can’t rely on it anymore” says Kelly,   LA driver with a #nomorefakesurge sign. “Things need to change for the better for once, not the worse.”

Drivers don’t just want more from Uber… Lyft is under fire as well.

This protest was at Uber’s driver hub and focused on rideshare drivers, but that doesn’t mean Lyft got a pass.

Lyft likes to bill itself as the friendlier driver option, but many drivers don’t see it that way, especially given Lyft’s $23 billion IPO.

As many of you will recall, Lyft announced a driver bonus plan that coincided with their IPO and paid drivers a one-time bonus of up to $10k. Not bad, but many drivers immediately felt this was just a way to placate drivers (and the media) before yet another pay decrease.

“We helped build a company that’s going to be worth maybe $20 billion and you think the $1,000 that you threw at a few drivers makes up for the fact that you ALSO have cut driver pay?” Asked one very angry Lyft driver named Paul. “They’re just the same as Uber, I’m just waiting for the next Lyft pay cut.”

In many ways, Paul is spot on here. Lyft certainly has had its fair share of pay cuts over the past few years, and there has been widespread speculation that with an IPO comes great pressure to improve profits by slashing driver pay.

So How have rideshare companies responded

In response to these protests, Uber has stuck to saying that the promotions that they are offering to drivers more than make up for any rate cuts that drivers have experience. In fact a Uber spokesperson said “changes will make rates comparable to where they were in September, while giving drivers more control over how they earn by allowing them to build a model that fits their schedule best.”

Lyft has also chimed in by saying that drivers just want a flexible model that works for them.

But, what Uber and Lyft are failing to realize is that by cutting base driver pay, you’re in fact decreasing driver flexibility as we explained previously in this article.

What do YOU think Uber and Lyft should do in response?

Instead of writing what I think Uber and Lyft should do, I want you to tell us what you think Uber and Lyft should do in response to these new protests. Let us know in the comments below!

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John Andrews
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John Andrews

local cities need to add $$ to the ride pick up…charge and insist this goes to the driver… rates need to go up as uber& lyft are increasing traffic on the roads as people shift away from public transport…

Sako
Guest
Sako

Raise the rates it’s a $35-40 an hr job done for $8. Lyft and Uber are nothing more than ponzie schemes. Raise the rates and cut the bullshit, before government gets too involved and we’re all fucked. Oh and put the past and present CEOs and management in a public square so we can stone them.

Ken Boynton
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Ken Boynton

Chicago has done the same as LA has with the addition of no more connecting rides out of the airports, and you must go to the TNP lots to be eligible for airport surges. Their “Uber Pro” program is nothing more than a scam requiring you to earn points to receive promotions and incentives you normally received prior to the new changes. Uber also discriminates against we suburban drivers in that you MUST drive in the designated areas of the city in order to receive the consecutive ride bonuses. the don’t offer them in the suburbs. Uber also controls your… Read more »

J
Member
J

What is this batch dispatching? Is this a pilot program change they are testing in Chicago?

PP
Guest
PP

I have friend that gets paid if it takes a long time to get to the pick up – not me! I spent an hour on the phone with Uber and all they can tell me is to prove it? I have issues with my app and can’t get into certain areas which is where I need to go to prove it if that’s even possible! How can I possibly go back to all the rides and remember how long it took me to get to the pick up! I just want to make sure my app is working properly!… Read more »

J
Member
J

I agree. All they need to do is implement some sort of fuel/mileage to pick up rate. How much do you think this rate should be?

SKIP
Guest
SKIP

I used to rely on driving only at maximum surge times (Lyft) but those have become rare and unreliable. I live in one of Pittsburgh’s college party areas, and could earn great money by taking a few trips late-night weekends, but the cuts are terrible and no longer worth putting drunk co-Eds in my car.

J
Member
J

Have you changed your driving strategy around this? I agree the cuts have made some trips just not worth the trouble. Drunks anyone?

Musa Ibn Wendell Ball
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Musa Ibn Wendell Ball

Lyft needs to restore the cuts back to the drivers. They also need to make their hubs accessible to the disabled. And far pickups need to be beneficial to drivers. Improve their App functionality. Make it easier to speak to live person especially when going to pick up or drop off rider. Possibly look at gas surcharges or rebates.

J
Member
J

The far pick ups are delusional. I frequently get 15+ min pings on LYFT. They need a better system to incentivize us to sink in gas/mileage before we even make money. Thoughts?

Fletcher Stevens
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Fletcher Stevens

Uber is obviously going to protect uber and not the driver’s. The driver’s need a independant contractor’s union to protect their rights. Also the driver’s have no due process when it comes to rider’s complaints. If a rider makes a accusation against the driver the driver can be deactivated without any recourse. A definite violation of 5th amendment rights. The surge issue is horrible. Uber still charges the rider a 1.0 to 4.0 surge but the driver only gets a capped amount of the surge. Uber is pissing on the driver’s heads and telling the diver’s it raining. Shameful. Driver’s… Read more »

J
Member
J

I agree with you that the drivers currently have zero bargaining power. Other than forming unions, is there any other way to find a collective voice as drivers? Maybe city council committees?

J
Member
J

There is a reason certain labor laws are in place. Workers of past times and past industries have been taken advantage of. Uber, Lyft, and ride sharing is the new industry of present times. There comes a cost to such innovation. To be innovative and maintain the rapid pace of advancement, these companies push boundaries. Have they pushed too far?

Leo
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Leo

Obviously uber is a bit bolder of the two crooks with 25% pay slashed, but both are shamelessly stealing any hope for sustainable wages for drivers. At present levels only ignoring your true level of car expenses -gas included-you can come out to drive everyday- and I do it 7 days a week. Sadly most drivers are too poor to sustain strikes that would deliver message to investors about flushing these bastards on the trash heap of history.

UberPirate18E
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UberPirate18E

Uber an epic fraud perpetrated by white billionaires against the working poor largely minorities and immigrants.

The only thing worse than Uber are Uber Users…

Kevin Kinkade
Guest
Kevin Kinkade

It doesn’t matter what drivers want. Uber and Lyft know that there are a slew of other drivers, many coming here from other countries, who are willing to work for less money. There were drivers on FB driver groups who were calling some of us “cry babies” for wanting better pay and telling us to get a real job if we didn’t like it. That’s why Uber and Lyft know that they can get away with what they’re doing.

J
Member
J

And I think that mentality of suck it up or find a new job is so wrong. We are all in this together as drivers. Having that kind of attitude is so counter intuitive to me.

Fletch
Guest
Fletch

I can agree with some of what they’re trying to get. They want the companies to “stop telling them when to drive”, ironically, they want their little group to dictate how many others can drive (“…vehicle cap to eliminate unnecessary traffic & carbon emissions”), and what people drive (“…Emission standards for all new vehicles added to the platforms”).

Kind of sounds like they want to form a union. Guess we’ll see when they start demanding other drivers pay THEM for the privilege of driving.

Gabriela
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Gabriela

Great article! Thanks for the support!

Stephen Hartmann
Guest
Stephen Hartmann

There is a real easy way to affect the rideshare companies. Stop driving for them! Whey we expect them to make decisions that are not in the best interest of their company is unfathomable. Right after the original CEO resigned UBER seemed to wise up a little and implemented some significant changes that really made a difference to drivers. The driver lawsuits seemed to make them realize that they could not treat us like cattle. Recently they seem to be backing off on some of the changes. Incentives have been reduced, surges have been reduced and destination drives have been… Read more »

J
Member
J

They have an endless supply of labor still willing to work for even lower rates. But I believe drivers should still have a unified voice. Otherwise, there will be 0 pushback for the cost cutting measures being taken by these companies.

Emily
Guest
Emily

Ryan, are you interested in being a spokesperson for drivers?

Tod Dixon
Guest
Tod Dixon

What they need to do is stop lying to govt abd other agencies and make us employess so we can get what we deserve.. If we are independent than at least pay us like New York codt of living . because 2 days ago they cut ny trips st thrme airpory noe i can no longer pick up or drop off st thr airport and since thsn ive done 2 rides total as to where o was doing anywhere from 5 to 20 a night all because i kept declining request that cane from people outside of the airport. And… Read more »

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