UBER AND LYFT DRIVERS ARE STAGING A NATIONWIDE PROTEST ON VALENTINE'S DAY

  • US Uber and Lyft drivers plan to protest on Valentine's Day over what they say is declining pay.
  • Drivers in roughly 20 cities are expected to participate. 
  • There have been several smaller driver protests in US cities over the past year. 

You might have a hard time finding a ride home from your Valentine's Day dinner.

That’s because some Uber and Lyft drivers across the country are planning not to drive on Wednesday to protest the declining pay they say they’ve experienced, in addition to concerns related to driver safety and deactivations.

Organizers told Business Insider that drivers in roughly 20 cities, including San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Boston, Phoenix, Atlanta, Toronto, and Vancouver, British Columbia, planned to participate in the protest. Some drivers are planning not to work the entire day, while others will hit pause for a few hours.

"There has never been a global gig protest where drivers were unified around one cause," Torsten Kunert, a ride-hailing YouTuber who has helped organize the protest, told BI. "There have been many isolated protests by drivers in various cities over the last two years. This one is unique."

Drivers gravitated toward Valentine's Day because there's typically high rider demand on the holiday. Organizers said it's difficult to estimate how many drivers would ultimately take part in the action.  

In Los Angeles, the driver-advocacy group Rideshare Drivers United, which has over 20,000 members across California, is organizing a gathering outside Uber’s Greenlight Hub. Last Friday, the group conducted a two-hour phone bank to spread the word about the Valentine's Day protest. 

“We just see a lot of fares that are going way below what it costs us to drive,” Nicole Moore, a part-time Lyft driver and the president of Rideshare Drivers United, told BI. “There have been bubbling up actions all over the country.” 

Frustrated drivers have begun to take action 

Dissatisfaction among ride-hailing drivers has been on the rise. Over the past year, there have been isolated protests in US cities including San Diego, Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Miami, and Tampa, Florida.

Protesters have used different tactics — including gathering around major airports during busy travel periods and choosing the day of a Taylor Swift concert — to make their absence felt. Most protests have centered on drivers’ complaints of declining pay. 

In recent months, several Uber and Lyft drivers have told BI that ride-hailing has become less profitable than it used to be. Many have blamed the rollout of “up-front fares” programs and high driver supply for their reduced pay. They've also called for greater transparency about how their pay is calculated.

“The last four weekends, I made $21.50 per online hour before expenses in LA,” Sergio Avedian, a part-time Uber driver who's a senior contributor to the gig-driver-advocacy blog and YouTube channel The Rideshare Guy, told BI. “Taking out my $6 per hour expenses, I might as well go flip burgers. I can make $20 an hour without risk.”

An Uber spokesperson told BI that protests have typically had minimal impact on prices and driver availability — and that most drivers are satisfied with their pay.

In an email to BI, Lyft wrote that it was working to improve the driver experience and pointed to new offers and commitments released in February, including a new minimum-earnings guarantee and an improved deactivation appeals process, that aim to increase driver pay and transparency.

In February, Lyft said the typical US driver earned roughly $23 per engaged hour after expenses. The company also announced it would begin guaranteeing drivers 70% of their weekly rider payments after external fees. In November, Uber said the typical US driver earned about $33 per engaged hour, not accounting for driving expenses.

Calculating a driver's true earnings can be quite complicated. Engaged hours are the time between when a ride is accepted and completed and don't include the time drivers spend relocating to a higher-demand area or filling up their gas tanks. Drivers also have to account for expenses such as gas, maintenance, and vehicle depreciation — and estimate how much of these were tied to ride-hailing rather than their personal vehicle use. The tax implications of driving have to be factored in as well.

Moore said the Valentine's Day protest could be the largest coordinated action since 2019, when protests took place in several cities in response to similar concerns regarding pay. 

Legislation could be the better path forward

While Avedian supports the Valentine’s Day protest, he’s skeptical that it will have much of an impact. 

Relative to customer demand, he said, the ride-hailing drivers’ market is the “most oversupplied” it’s been in his eight years as a driver. That means plenty of drivers who aren't participating in the protest could be available to pick up riders. In November, Uber announced it had a record 6.5 million active drivers and couriers.

Avedian said pushing for new legislation was the best way for drivers to seek changes. New York City, Seattle, and California have enacted minimum pay rates for drivers, and proposals are under consideration in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Massachusetts.

“What matters is that they'll bring attention that this is happening,” Avedian said of the protest. “And I don't think this is a one-and-done. I think this is going to happen a lot in 2024.”

Are you a gig worker willing to share your story about pay, schedule, and tipping? Reach out to the reporter at jzinkula@insider.com.

2024-02-12T09:23:12Z dg43tfdfdgfd