SAN FRANCISCO — Taxi drivers across the country went on strike on Wednesday, saying their profits were falling, and calling on the US Senate to pass a PRO Act to allow them to regulate.
In California, drivers said Uber Technologies Inc.
and Lyft Inc.
Made within the last year Proposition 22 campaign for record-breaking companies I fell short. More than half of California voters Passed the ballot initiative, which offered guaranteed earnings and healthcare salaries, allowing companies to get around a state law that required them to treat drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.
Drivers in the state say they still lack decent wages and benefits, and are asking federal lawmakers to act so they can get the right to join unions and collectively bargain. As Uber and Lyft admit that ride prices are high and they don’t have enough drivers to meet rising demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some drivers are still saying they are seeing their efforts rates drop.
Drivers stopped working and gathered at Uber’s San Francisco headquarters Wednesday afternoon chanting “Prop. 22, someone lied to you.”
Ibrahim Diallo, a Malian immigrant who lives in San Francisco, told MarketWatch at the rally that he’s driven Ubers since 2015, and his earnings have declined over the years. Diallo said he had to work more hours than before to survive, and with the recent shortage of drivers, he said it’s been difficult to take breaks.
“Am I a robot?” Asked. “If you don’t take a break, you will get tired and may have an accident.”
Esterphanie St. Juste, a longtime driver and organizer with Rideshare Drivers United (RDU) in Los Angeles, said Uber has cut what it pays drivers from Los Angeles International Airport to 32 cents per mile.
“Can you imagine getting 32 cents for anything in the US, with gas prices going up?” She asked.
Previously, drivers outside LAX were making 58 cents per mile, said Brian Dolber, associate professor at California State University, San Marcos, and organizer at RDU.
“Before that the rate was 80 cents per mile, and years ago it was $1.50,” Dolber said. Long-term drivers have seen a significant drop in wages. These companies connected people, people were making a decent living, but without any legal protections, drivers saw their prices drop repeatedly.”
Drivers also demonstrated at Los Angeles Airport on Wednesday, and similar efforts are planned in eight other cities, according to RDU: San Diego, Austin, Boston, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Denver and Baltimore.
Uber and Lyft rejected the drivers’ allegations on Wednesday.
“Drivers are much busier now than they were before the pandemic started,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “In our major markets, drivers are earning more than $30 an hour, which is much higher than it was before COVID.” An Uber spokeswoman said the average earnings for Uber drivers when they are on the app is $32.33 an hour.
Drivers’ work comes before Senate committee hearing R 482 – Also known as the Right to Organize Protection Act, or PRO Act – scheduled for Thursday morning. Bill Passed by the US House of Representatives in March, has not yet lived up to the level of support that the Senate needs.
“The company’s sole function is to make a profit for its owners and shareholders,” Saint-Just told MarketWatch on Wednesday. “The PRO Act will give us our voice and give us the power to make changes.”
Both companies have promoted “driver independence” in their response to drivers urging lawmakers to pass the PRO Act.
“Lyft is striving to expand benefits and protections for drivers in a way that allows them to maintain their independence,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “Uber believes we should push policies that improve, rather than eliminate, independent work,” an Uber spokeswoman said.
The San Francisco rally included politicians and activists. California State Assemblyman Ash Kalra, a Democrat, called the PRO Act a “pillar” against the “vortex of our declining society.”
“[The gig companies] They can only spend a handful of money and make their own laws,” he said.
“Tech workers need to demand an end to second-tier employment status,” said Eddie Hernandez, a former Uber engineer who quit his job in solidarity with drivers during Proposition 22 last year.
“How does Uber know what drivers want if they don’t have a voice on the job?” Asked.
More to track …
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