Uber, Lyft drivers strike across US, demanding fairer pay

By Akash Sriram

(Reuters) -Drivers for Uber Technologies, Lyft and delivery workers for DoorDash were staging a strike on Wednesday, seeking fair pay and better treatment.

Workers say the rideshare and food delivery platforms are taking disproportionate sums from their fares as fees, hurting their earnings. The protest comes just as Uber, the largest ride-share company, saw its shares hit a record high after announcing a $7 billion share buyback.

“These platforms continuously decrease driver earnings year after year as means to show they are profitable to investors to get them to buy into their stock,” said Shantwan Humphrey, a driver in Dallas, Texas.

Drivers from the Justice for App Workers (JFAW) coalition planned protests at airports across 10 cities in the East and Midwest, while Rideshare Drivers United group’s members will picket outside Uber’s offices in Los Angeles at noon PT (3 pm ET).

“Right now, thousands of rideshare drivers with Justice for App Workers are on strike in 10 cities across the United States in the largest rideshare strike in American history, with at least a dozen additional cities holding non-strike echo actions in solidarity,” JFAW said in a statement to Reuters.

In response, Uber said it saw no impact to its operations from the strike.

“In fact, in most markets, there are more drivers on the road today than there were during the same period last week,” it added.

Uber and Lyft last year agreed to pay $328 million to resolve New York State’s multi-year investigation into the companies, which Attorney General Letitia James called the largest wage theft settlement in her office’s history.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor released a final rule making it easier for gig economy workers to claim they are employees. Uber and Lyft drivers are considered independent contractors.

“Uber and Lyft are degrading workers and the service, paying less while charging more, while clawing back value for the company and its shareholders,” said Alissa Centivany, assistant professor at Western University in Canada’s Ontario.

Calls for a strike have spilled outside of the United States as well, with food delivery workers in the United Kingdom and rideshare drivers in Canada also threatening walkouts.

“A significant portion of these riders, many of whom are immigrants or primary family breadwinners, endure grueling shifts extending beyond 13 hours daily, without a day’s rest,” Delivery Job UK, a UK-based group organizing strikes, said on its Instagram page.

Labor strikes have become more common in the past year, with action by the United Auto Workers union bringing some factories of the Detroit Three to a standstill for months, costing the automakers billions of dollars.

Uber’s cash flow rose to $3.4 billion in 2023, up from $390 million a year earlier. Shares of Lyft were up 32% on Wednesday after its earnings, which surpassed Wall Street’s expectations.

In the second half of 2023, the median earnings for a Lyft driver using a personal vehicle was $30.68, including tips and bonuses per engaged hour. For Uber, it was $33 per hour, in the December quarter.

In a bid to lure more drivers, Lyft announced last week that it would pay the difference if drivers made less than 70% of what riders paid after external fees every week.

(Reporting by Akash Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)