What I learned at the rideshare driver protests in LA

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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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