Two leading ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, are dealing with labor disputes as both are launching long anticipated IPOs.
Uber and Lyft drivers, many of which say their salaries have dropped substantially in the last year, are planning a nationwide strike to protest their pay and working conditions. The protest is scheduled for one day, this Wednesday, when participating drivers nationwide will refuse rides and turn off their apps.
“I feel they wanted to get drivers in just to get the demand going, and once they got that going, they just sliced all the rates,” said Lyft driver Joshua Harris to WSB TV Atlanta. “We’re the ones who are keeping these wheels rolling. It’s not the people who are sitting in the back office. It’s not the CEO. We’re the foot soldiers out here.”
“Stop ripping us off. Be honest in what you are taking,” said Lauren Parrott, a Minneapolis based Uber/Lyft driver to the StarTribune. “I’m working harder to make the same amount of money. I’d like them to pay us more.”
Both companies have been actively recruiting drivers across the nation to join their separate armies of drivers hauling people to their destinations. In the earliest part of the ride hailing era, some have joined for a secondary salary, or as their primary income. Many now find their pay just barely above minimum wage, and are criticizing the salaries considering that the companies could reap billions as they go public.
The Associated Press spoke to both companies. An Uber spokesperson told the AP: “Whether it’s more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections or fully-funded four-year degrees for drivers or their families, we’ll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.” A Lyft spokesperson disputed driver complaints that hourly earnings have decreased.
The protests come as Uber is preparing to launch its IPO after months of anticipation and speculation. Lyft has completed its own IPO, with middling results. Observers are closely watching the one-time startups to see what their IPO’s will mean for other matured tech startups planning to go public.
That kind of attention means drivers may not get what the want from Uber or Lyft.
“After the IPO, Uber will face pressure from investors and the market to show financial improvements, which makes substantial increases in drivers’ pay unlikely,” said Joyce Beebe, a research fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in an interview with the StarTribune. She said its possible the drivers may get a one time bonus, but not a substantial raise.
Under current labor laws, independent contractors, which ride-hailing drivers are considered, don’t have to be paid a minimum wage.