Why Uber Drivers Are Striking Around the World Today

By Patrick Howell O'Neill on at

We’re just days out from Uber making its multibillion-dollar move to the New York Stock Exchange and thousands of drivers from around the world are launching a series of strikes protests today in an effort to fight for better pay and better treatment.

Uber, however, expects their driver dissatisfaction problem to only get worse.

“With this strike, we want to deliver a message to the greedy companies who used us to reach their goals,” San Francisco Uber driver Omar Alkhameri told Gizmodo. “Look at how to help drivers make their living and survive. Treat us as human beings.”

Driver groups in cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston are planning to strike. In other cities, like Philadelphia, driver groups will hold protests and press conferences about working conditions under the rideshare companies. In the UK, strikes have been organised in London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Glasgow. An incomplete list of strikes and protests is being built here.

Uber, founded ten years ago, is at a pivotal point in its history. On the eve of its initial public offering, the numbers at the San Francisco company add up to a deeply strange picture.

Uber expects to be valued at more than $80 billion in its imminent big day on Wall Street. This is the third biggest IPO ever behind Alibaba and Facebook. Revenue growth has slowed recently and the company is hugely unprofitable with $1.1 billion lost in the first quarter of 2019. Executives, founders, investors, and corporate employees stand to make billions but dozens of drivers have told Gizmodo that their pay is falling. Uber did not respond to a request for comment.

A 2018 JP Morgan Chase study found drivers pay had fallen 53 per cent since 2013. Uber said that is because of a rise in the number of part-time drivers.

The problem will almost certainly grow from here. In Uber’s S-1, the form the company filed with the SEC in order to go public, the company admitted “significant” driver dissatisfaction that will likely rise as take-home pay continues to decrease.

“In particular, as we aim to reduce Driver incentives to improve our financial performance, we expect Driver dissatisfaction will generally increase,” Uber explained.

“The first globally coordinated day of action against Uber is to send a loud and clear message that drivers have had enough,” Uber driver Rebecca Stack told Gizmodo. “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. We hope this global day of action compels Uber to pay their drivers a living wage and to build more equitable relationships with the people who are the heart of their company.”

When asked for comment, an Uber spokesperson sent Gizmodo the following statement:

Drivers are at the heart of our service – we can’t succeed without them – and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road. 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.

In addition to strikes and protests around the world, one focal point will be a strike at Uber’s San Francisco headquarters at noon local time today. Gig Workers Rising, a driver advocacy group in Northern California, expect several hundred drivers to show up at Uber HQ among thousands taking action around the country.

“We want a living wage,” Uber driver and organizer Mostafa Maklad told Gizmodo when the strikes were first organised. “Most of [the] drivers living in San Francisco are forced to work at least 70-80 hours a week in order to survive in the city. Living expenses increase, gas prices increase, food expenses increase, everything is getting more expensive in order to live in San Francisco. We have to drive more and more, deal with health and stress problems, but Uber doesn’t care. What Uber is doing is decreasing pay to drivers.”

Featured image: Justin Sullivan (Getty)