Uber, Lyft Drivers Rally For Protections, Higher Pay

May 08, 2019 - 3:35 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Protesters stood at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge and drivers slowed traffic into Lower Manhattan and up the FDR Drive and over the Queensboro Bridge to a rally at Uber and Lyft headquarters.

Several dozen drivers outside Uber's Long Island City headquarters decided to turn off their apps and pick up their protest signs. They are fighting for higher pay and an assurance they won’t be kicked off the apps without cause, says Janet Kwon, an organizer with the Taxi Workers Alliance.

“There is no appeals process, there's no just cause and it is not written in the contract, their deactivation policy because Uber doesn't have one,” says Kwon.

Although New York enacted a first-in-the-nation minimum wage for app-based drivers in Februrary, advocates say it's not enough to maintain their cars and put food on the table.

"It was so little... we are demanding 80 percent income should go to the driver and 20 percent should be the company's," said Mohammad Tipu Sultan of the Taxi Workers Alliance.

Erik Forman with the Independent Drivers Guild, the group behind the minimum wage effort, said, "It's really up to Uber. They can keep on exploiting drivers. Drivers are going to keep on organizing and fighting against them. If they want to be at war with their work force, game on."

Guild member Michelle Doton says drivers in other parts of the country are coming to them for help in organizing.

"We're in solidarity with them because we won already, right? It doesn't mean that we're not gonna go back because our drivers are still not doing okay."

While many drivers sat out the morning rush, many others decided to keep driving.

“What I can do? I have family and, you know, I have to work, you know, I have to,” one driver told WCBS 880.

Drivers say half of their wages go to Uber and as the company gets ready for its initial public stock offering, their message to New Yorkers is to invest in our lives, not in their stock.

The offering is expected to put the company's valuation as high as $91 billion.

"You forgot about your quote-unquote partner, because that's what you call us. If you're calling us partners then treat me as your partner and not as a throwaway," said driver and guild member Shelly Ramirez.

In a statement to WCBS 880, an Uber spokesperson says, “Drivers are at the heart of our service, and we can’t succeed without them. We’ll continue working to improve drivers’ experience for and with them, every day.”

The spokesperson says they're committed to improving the driver experience whether it's more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections or fully-funded four-year degrees for drivers and their families.

Uber said that the protest did not have a significant impact on the reliability of their service.