Uber, Lyft drivers strike over low wages, limited benefits

May 8, 2019

Frequent Uber and Lyft users may have a more difficult time hailing a ride this week as drivers go on strike to protest low pay. 

CNBC reported Tuesday that the strike is intended to raise awareness that drivers are vital to Uber and Lyft operations. The strikes started Tuesday across numerous U.S. cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta. The strike hours are variable, with New York City drivers planning to log off of their smartphone apps between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. during rush hour. The Los Angeles strike could last 24 hours, however.

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The timing is not accidental. It comes weeks after Lyft's initial public offering, while Uber is set to go public on the New York Stock Exchange next week. In New York City, drivers are demanding a livable wage, job security, and a guaranteed commission rate.

Drivers say they have watched their earnings shrink over the past few years while Lyft and Uber executives make more.

Both companies released statements in response to the strike. Lyft said its drivers have earned more than $10 billion collectively in the past two years, while over 75 percent of its drivers work fewer than 10 hours per week. It said most of its drivers supplement a primary income by driving with the ride-hailing company, and on average, Lyft drivers make $20 per hour.

Uber called its drivers "the heart of our service" in its statement and said it continues work to create a better experience for its drivers. The company added it will continue to focus on consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections, and fully funded four-year degrees.

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Adding drivers to the companies' payrolls would have a negative impact on both; currently, Uber and Lyft drivers are considered contractors without benefits. However, drivers for both ride-hailing services are eligible for other kinds of bonuses. Those who've completed 20,000 rides by a certain date this year are eligible for a $10,000 bonus. Other sums are rewarded based on a driver's level of activity.

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