Hundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers will join other app-based workers across the U.S. in a full-day strike Wednesday to protest poor working conditions and demand the right to organize.
Workers are demanding higher wages and congressional support for the Pro Act, a law that would provide protection for workers trying to enter unions, including members of the concert economy. The account stalled indefinitely after it passed in an American house in March.
“Application-based workers are fed up with taking advantage of big tech companies,” said Eve Aruguete, a driver from Oakland and a member of the Rideshare Drivers United organizing group. “Misclassification is like concrete and keeps us underground. The PRO Act is a hammer that will break that concrete, allowing app-based workers to get organized. “
Workers in California, Boston, Las Vegas, Denver and Austin on Wednesday will refuse to receive orders, and rallies will be held in a number of cities, including outside Uber’s San Francisco headquarters.
The strike comes as Uber and Lyft prices rise due to a record shortage of drivers. That shortage was prompted by a “silent strike,” said Brian Dolber, organizer and professor of communications, as drivers refuse to return to jobs they consider exploitative.
“Here drivers are retaliating and saying they won’t be second-rate workers,” Dolber said. “They say they can’t continue to work under the forms of inequality we saw during the pandemic.”
In 2020, the number of Uber rides fell by 80% in some areas, and hundreds of thousands of drivers lost their jobs, according to a survey by Rideshare Drivers United. About 37% of respondents said they lost 100% of their income, while 19% lost more than 75% of their income.
But as vaccinations increased and demand returned, many drivers refused to return to their jobs behind the wheel, said Daniel Russell, an Uber and Lyft driver for the past four years and organizer of Rideshare Drivers United.
“The pandemic really underscored our vulnerability when the market dried up,” he said. “Now is the time for action.”
The strike originally focused on workers in California, where a law called Proposition 22 came into force in early 2021, freeing some large technology companies from fully complying with labor laws. Under Program 22, concert companies can still classify workers as suppliers, without access to employee rights such as minimum wage, unemployment benefits, health insurance, and collective bargaining.
Organizers say Uber and Lyft have raised driver prices in the months since the adoption of Prop 22, while reducing the share of driving. Uber and Lyft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“They promised us flexibility, more control and more transparency,” driver Carlos Pelayo said. “But since Prop 22 has passed, I have less control over where I drive, who I pick up and how much I earn. Props 22 was the most expensive lie ever told to voters in California. “
Organizers say the Pro law may correct some of the failures of Pro 22, but it requires more support from Senate Democrats. If passed, it will make it harder for companies in the group economy to classify workers as independent suppliers and allow Uber and Lyft drivers to team up and bargain collectively.
“Drivers need the Pro Act because it allows us to form a union and an organization that cares on our behalf and ensures our safety and a fair salary,” said Russell, who drives in the Los Angeles area. “We need to have a chance to have our say.”