Drivers for ride-hailing companies went on strike in Los Angeles on Monday, demanding higher pay.
After Uber cut its drivers’ pay by about 25 percent earlier this month, members of the driver-led group Rideshare Drivers United decided to strike for 25 hours, from midnight Monday through 1 a.m. Tuesday, to demand that their previous pay be reinstated ― and to ask for a minimum hourly wage.
Earlier this month, Uber cut the per-mile rate for drivers in LA and parts of Orange County from 80 cents to 60 cents per mile, the Los Angeles Times reported.
While the exact number of drivers striking on Monday is unclear, there are about 3,000 members in Rideshare Drivers United’s LA-based group.
“It’s not fair, it’s a joke. It doesn’t make sense,” said Karim Bayumi, who is part of the organizing team at Rideshare Drivers United. The 40-year-old father of two is a full-time driver with Uber and Lyft, usually working six days a week from about 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“It’s not like rates were OK before, but this is completely unacceptable,” he added. “We drivers are being exploited and being taken advantage of by these two giant companies.”
“As part of the strike, Rideshare Drivers United is asking drivers to turn off their apps on Monday and for riders not to use Uber or Lyft services all day.”
Uber and Lyft are both expected to launch an initial public offering (IPO) soon ― with Lyft pegging its value at more than $20 billion, and Uber potentially looking at a $120 billion valuation when it goes public.
While Rideshare Drivers United’s first demand is to restore its members’ recently cut pay, the group is also asking for a $28 per hour minimum wage, before expenses. Ride-hailing company drivers in New York City won a $17.22 minimum wage late last year, after expenses.
As part of the strike, the group is asking drivers to turn off their apps on Monday and for riders not to use Uber or Lyft services all day. There were also dozens of people picketing in Redondo Beach on Monday, carrying signs reading: “Restore our dignity, restore 25 percent.”
Presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted his support of the strike on Monday.
“I stand with Uber and Lyft drivers striking in LA,” Sanders wrote. “One job should be enough to make a decent living in America, especially for those working for multibillion-dollar companies.”
Bayumi said that while the rate cut from Uber prompted the strike, drivers are not happy with their pay from either Uber or Lyft.
A spokesperson for Lyft noted that 91 percent of the service’s drivers us it part time, or less than 20 hours a week.
An Uber spokesperson said in a statement Monday that the company is introducing a new promotion feature and that its recent rate changes “will make rates comparable to where they were in September, while giving drivers more control over how they earn by allowing them to build a model that fits their schedule best.”
On March 11, the per-minute rate for Uber trips in Los Angeles and Orange County increased, but the per-mile rate decreased.
In 2016, hundreds of Uber drivers in New York City went on strike after the company reduced rates.
Because ride-hailing company drivers are classified as independent contractors instead of as employees, it’s harder for them to unionize, according to the Los Angeles Times. But Bayumi hopes Rideshare Drivers United will grow beyond California and organize more drivers to stand together for their rights.
While this strike ends at 1 a.m. Tuesday, it’s only the first of several actions to come, Bayumi said.
“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,” he said. “We’re trying to make a living ... we shouldn’t have to be struggling, scraping pennies off the floor.”
This article has been updated with comment from Lyft.