Drivers for ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft are going on strike in cities across the country Wednesday, demanding higher pay and better working conditions.
Thousands of drivers are expected to participate in the strike, as well as rallies and pickets, organized by local driver groups in at least 10 cities nationwide, including New York, Washington, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
In L.A., driver group Rideshare Drivers United is calling for drivers to turn off apps for 24 hours, from midnight Tuesday to midnight Wednesday, as well as attend a rally at noon Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport. In New York, drivers are turning apps off from 7 to 9 a.m. Wednesday and then are rallying at 1 p.m. outside Uber’s headquarters.
L.A.’s Rideshare Drivers United, which has about 3,000 members, is demanding that Uber and Lyft guarantee drivers a $28 hourly minimum rate before expenses, or about $17 after expenses. The group led a daylong strike in March after Uber cut drivers’ pay in the L.A. area by about 25% in March ― reducing its per-mile rate from 80 cents to 60 cents per mile.
“We provide an essential service, but Uber and Lyft investors are the only ones reaping the benefits,” Karim Bayumi, a driver who is part of the organizing team in L.A., said in a news release before Wednesday’s strike. The 40-year-old father of two told HuffPost last month that he is a full-time rideshare driver working six days a week from about 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“Our picket and rally will show that rideshare drivers will not be invisible ― we demand justice,” he added.
The Wednesday strike takes place just one day before Uber’s initial public offering, set for Thursday, when it is expected to issue stock worth up to $91 billion. Lyft went public in March, valued at more than $24 billion.
Uber did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. When asked about the impending strike, a Lyft spokesperson said that its drivers earn more than $20 per hour and that over three-quarters of its drivers work part time, less than 10 hours a week.
Virginia Del. Lee Carter (D), a lawmaker who drives part time for Lyft, said he’d be among the striking drivers Wednesday.
“This strike is to send a message that the folks at corporate at Uber and Lyft who are getting massively rich off of the exploitation of drivers is not going unnoticed,” Carter told HuffPost.
Because ride-hailing company drivers are classified as independent contractors instead of employees, it’s harder for them to unionize, and they aren’t ensured the same benefits as full-time workers for a company, such as a minimum wage or health insurance.
“I believe what Uber and Lyft drivers are doing is a valuable service ― we bring people home safely after a long night out, we take people to work,” Bayumi told HuffPost last month. “We’re trying to make a living … we shouldn’t have to be struggling, scraping pennies off the floor.”