Uber and Lyft drivers launch strike to protest pay and job security

Investors are banking on those drivers eventually being replaced with autonomous vehicles

DOMINICO ZAPATA STUFFInvestors are banking on those drivers eventually being replaced with autonomous vehicles

The new threat to Uber is emerging as the San Francisco company pursues an initial public offering of stock that could raise $9 billion when the deal is completed later this week.

NY drivers are fresh off a recent win against the city with a new law that mandates ride-hail companies pay at least $17.22 an hour after expenses, which other cities have hailed as an example, especially in expensive housing markets like L.A. Still, drivers say it's hard to make ends meet in major markets on that wage.

Many drivers in San Diego are expected to strike throughout the day Wednesday, with picketing and a rally starting at 11 a.m.at Lindbergh Field's Transportation Island at Terminal 1.

The drivers are demanding a guaranteed hourly wage of at least $18, or $16 including expenses.

For its part, Uber has rolled out new initiatives in an effort to make things better for drivers, such as in-app tipping, a feature that pays drivers extra if they have to wait for customers and 24/7 phone support. Over 75 percent drive less than 10 hours a week to supplement existing jobs.

"They make it virtually impossible for a passenger to understand how much the drivers are getting and they also make it very hard for the drivers to understand what's going on", said Walt Ellis, an Uber driver in the Seattle area who is planning to protest Wednesday.

"Whether it's being able to track your earnings, new safety features, or stronger insurance protections, we'll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers".

The ride-sharing company Lyft surprised investors last night with a quarterly revenue rise of 95 per cent to $776 million in its first report since becoming a public company in March, but concerns remained about whether it would ever make a profit.

"This is what is fueling a lot of the driver action around the country to say, 'we are the folks who pay for a auto, we are the folks who put gas in that vehicle, we are the folks who bear all of the risk on the road, and we deserve a fair shot", said Teamsters organizer Joshua Welter.

The nature of the ride-hailing market makes it challenging to organize Uber and Lyft drivers. Some organizers also called for drivers to be classified as employees, a move that would have profound implications for the ride-hailing business model if enacted by governments.

Uber (UBER) and Lyft (LYFT) drivers went on strike during rush hour Wednesday morning, staging protests in cities around the world to demand higher wages and benefits.

Uber wrote in a filing with the SEC that its take rate was 22% in 2018, up from 21% in 2017 and 16% in 2016. "Drivers across the globe have similar demands: to pay us a living wage, to have a voice at work, transparency around pay and policies that affect us, and recognition that drivers are the ones who built this company".

According to a recent study from Georgetown University's Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, which spent two years investigating the working conditions of 40 Uber drivers in the D.C. area, 33% took on debt that resulted from driving for Uber. The company, which is expected to price its shares Thursday, reportedly set set a range of $44 to $50 per share, valuing the company at $80.53 billion.

Drive United said the action was in solidarity with protests in the U.S. and other areas of the world where drivers struggle with the independent contractor model.

"But the prospectus renewed questions about how sustainable Uber's business actually is".

In New York, drivers plan to rally outside the offices of Uber and Lyft in Queens.

When companies go public, it usually means big money for executives, and sometimes nice payouts for employees.

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