Uber and Lyft drivers yesterday went on strike across Los Angeles in opposition to Uber’s decision to cut rates by 25% in the Los Angeles area.
Organized by Rideshare Drivers United, the strike comes as a further labor-led fightback against ride-hailing platforms following news that U.K.-based Uber drivers are suing the company over access to personal data. If anyone thought 2018’s techlash was over, they need to think again – it appears worker solidarity is only getting stronger in the tech industry.
What was the purpose of the March 25 Uber strike?
Uber and Lyft drivers have experienced declining wages for a number of years as the respective platforms compete to grow customers. This made news earlier in March that Uber would be reducing the per mile rate for drivers from 80¢ to 60¢ particularly tough to take. It underlined to many drivers that things are probably only going to continue to get worse while power rests solely on the side of the platforms.
Rideshare Drivers United LA is calling a 25-hour strike on March 25th, ON ALL RIDESHARE PLATFORMS, to rollback the 25% mileage pay cut. JOIN US at the protest that MONDAY the 25th at 11 AM in front of the Uber Greenlight Hub in Redondo Beach. #StrikeUberLyft pic.twitter.com/JNg52l64MV
— Rideshare Drivers United – LA (@_drivers_united) March 18, 2019
But there was more at stake than just an increase in wages. In many ways opposition to Uber’s pay cut is simply a first step in a longer road towards improved working conditions and greater power.
Rideshare Drivers United actually has an extensive list of aims and demands:
- A 10% cap on commission
- The right to organize and negotiate for improved working conditions
- Ensuring Uber and Lyft are working in accordance with authorities on green initiatives
With New York City authorities taking steps to implement minimum pay requirements in December 2018, the action on the west coast could certainly be seen as an attempt to push for consistency across the country. However, it doesn’t appear that Los Angeles authorities are interested in taking similar steps at the moment.
Uber and Lyft’s response to the Los Angeles strike
In a statement given to The Huffington Post, an Uber spokesperson said that the 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.” In the same piece, the HuffPo quotes a Lyft spokesperson who points out that the company hasn’t changed their rates for 12 months.
Support for striking Uber and Lyft drivers
Support for the strikers came from many quarters, including the National Union of Health Workers and Senator Bernie Sanders. “One job should be enough to make a decent living in America” the NUHW said.
We stand with Uber and Lyft workers striking in Los Angeles. One job should be enough to make a decent living in America. Multibillion-dollar companies have a responsibility to their workers. Drivers must be paid a living wage. #UnionsForAll #StrikeUberLyft #strike4equality #1job pic.twitter.com/7pYhS58aFq
— National Union of Healthcare Workers (@NUHW) March 25, 2019
Time for Silicon Valley to rethink
There’s clearly a long way to go if Rideshare Drivers United are going to achieve their aims. But the conversation is shifting and many Silicon Valley executives will need to look up and take notice – perhaps it’s time to rethink things.