While out working one night, an Uber driver saw a post on the wall of a Facebook group page called Uber Drivers United announcing a meeting time and a Hollywood address with no explanation. He decided that it would be interesting to plug the address into his GPS and go there, to see what it was all about.
When Los Angeles City College student and former Los Angeles Taxi Service supervisor Ed Gutman got there, he realized that it was just a Rite Aid. Pulling in, he saw a group of about 100 people huddled in a parking lot full of Camrys and Priuses, some of the most popular cars to drive in the ride-share industry for being exceptionally fuel-efficient. He parked his 2012 Honda Civic and walked into a meeting of outraged drivers.
Uber, along with other companies like Lyft and Sidecar, “partner” with drivers who have a clean driving record and new cars to provide a peer-to-peer ride sharing service. They have enjoyed an enormous amount of success with consumers – many of whom have switched over from taxicab services – by constantly lowering their rates and recruiting friendly, hard-working drivers.
Beneath the seeming success of these companies is a war to out-price the competition, leaving the actual workers to struggle for survival on drastically lowered wages.
Consumers need to be made aware of these deplorable conditions and stand together with drivers to demand better treatment, or else these convenient rideshare applications that many have come to enjoy will be no more.
Rideshare drivers demand that the government step in to regulate these companies. Lyft has been receptive to government regulations, but Uber has not.
“The overwhelming majority of these drivers were immigrants who may come from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background and speak English as a second or third language,” Gutman said. “Some of these drivers have difficulties in understanding payments and policies.”
All they know is that every month, they are making less and less in personal profits. After the rideshare companies take their commission, and after the drivers pay for gas, meals, insurance and repairs, there is hardly enough money left over to make minimum wage.
According to Gutman, who was asked after this meeting to take on a leadership role in a group that calls itself a “Los Angeles driver community organization,” driver wages have been cut three times on the UberX platform, and drivers are now operating at .90 cents per mile while taxis continue to operate at $2.70 per mile.
Uber drivers have it especially hard since Uber tells its consumers, “Being Uber means there is no need to tip drivers with any of our services,” and “We’ve taken care of it,” thus creating an anti-tipping culture.
At least the riders for the Lyft application have the option of tipping at the end of their ride.
Gutman claims that Uber is misinforming consumers about tips being included in the fare. On his paycheck, there is no section labeled tips or gratuities, he said.
“I strongly feel that Uber is suppressing wages and tips in order to keep drivers on the road longer,” Gutman said. “Some full-time drivers I’ve spoken to have told me they’re now working 10-16 hours per day while they chase their previous earnings.”
This could potentially create dangerous situations for anyone on the road with these sleep-deprived drivers.
Gutman also believes that Uber is intentionally doing this to prevent drivers from having the time or resources to unionize and demand better treatment.
But if that is their strategy, it isn’t working.
The drivers plan on getting together to protest these injustices on April 4, 2015, and they welcome their loyal consumers to join them in the spirit of fair working conditions.
To get involved, visit their Facebook page, Uber Drivers United.
Editors note: Ariana Sawyer is a former Uber and Lyft subcontractor, and worked with both companies for approximately five months. A great deal of her knowledge on the subject comes from her experience as an employee with Uber and Lyft.