Why organizing Uber and Lyft drivers is a big challenge

Lyft carpooling press image

So this is why the drivers striking now makes a lot of sense. The workers are purposely planning to meddle with the ride-hail apps during the morning rush, an hour before Uber is set to open up to public markets.

"Stand with these workers on strike today, across the United Kingdom and the world", said Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party. Another dozen attended a protest at about 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) near Wall Street in Manhattan.

On Tuesday, FOX 5 spoke with a few drivers in the area who said they actually do not plan to strike, but near Reagan National Airport, where so many people rely on Uber and Lyft for pickup and drop off, there may certainly be an impact.

"The first globally coordinated day of action against Uber is to send a loud and clear message that drivers have had enough", Uber driver Rebecca Stack told Gizmodo.

Together, drivers for the two companies provided about 91,000 rides per day in the Seattle area, according to ridership reports filed with the city past year. Drivers often work part time and, sometimes, for a variety of ride-hailing and delivery services. Drivers in some cities plan to disconnect for 24 hours, while in other cities drivers are striking for only a couple of hours.

The new threat to Uber is emerging as the San Francisco company pursues an initial public offering of stock that could raise $9 billion when the deal is completed later this week.

The company also said it would "continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers" and that those efforts could include moving toward "more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections or fully-funded four-year degrees for drivers or their families". The union demands an increase in fares to £2 per mile from £1.25; a cut in the commission paid by drivers to Uber from 25% to 15%; employment status for drivers which means they get paid the minimum wage and receive holiday and sick pay; and an end to unfair dismissals.

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By contrast, Uber and Lyft drivers rarely meet other drivers on the job. On the eve of its initial public offering, the numbers at the San Francisco company add up to a deeply odd picture. "All drivers deserve fair pay".

"Oftentimes I get 80 percent ... Uber is the worst actor in the gig economy".

Drivers who will be logging off have the backing of labor organizations like the New York Taxi Workers' Alliance, the L.A. -based group Rideshare Drivers United, and Working America. They'll supercharge their profitability and the drivers will have no leverage at all.

The total incentive cut in recent years may well be far higher: research firm RedSeer Consulting estimates online taxi operators driver incentives, as a percentage of gross booking totals, fell from 60 percent in 2015 to 18 percent last year. Many drivers took loans to buy cabs, while some leased cars from the companies themselves.

Drivers are classified as independent contractors, and lack paid sick and vacation days and must pay their own expenses, such as vehicle maintenance and gasoline.

US representatives for Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Lyft said drivers' hourly earnings have increased over the past two years, and drivers take home more than $20 per hour on average - though the company did not provide a median wage as an example of how that figure translated across its contract workforce. "I stand with the Uber and Lyft drivers going on strike on May 8".

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