Uber and Lyft drivers worldwide are striking on Wednesday to protest what they describe as unfair wages and poor working conditions — just days before Uber is set to go public with a valuation of about $90 billion.
The protests kicked off in Australia, with drivers in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne staging “brief protests,” according to CNBC. British drivers staged a boycott in several cities that lasted from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. local time, with dozens of drivers holding signs outside of the company’s London offices by midday. Drivers in many American cities, from New York City to San Francisco, are also expected to protest on Wednesday.
Protest organizers are aiming to convince legislators to investigate mandatory minimum wages and have the companies more insight into how it’s drivers will be fairly compensated. Both Uber and Lyft classify its drivers as contractors rather than employees, exempting the drivers from benefits like social security.
“Gig workers have no sort of protections that labor rights activists fought years for,” Rebecca Stack Martinez, an Uber and Lyft driver who is helping organize a strike in San Francisco, told The Los Angeles Times. “The eight-hour workday, vacation pay … sick time, those kinds of things. I think it’s going to be left up to legislators to step in and actually say, ‘No, you have to treat your workers fairly regardless of how you classify them.'”
Uber did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
“Lyft drivers’ hourly earnings have increased 7% over the last two years, and they have earned more than $14B since we launched,” a Lyft spokesperson told TheWrap. “Over 75% drive less than 10 hours a week to supplement existing jobs. On average, Lyft drivers earn over $20 per hour. We know that access to flexible, extra income makes a big difference for millions of people, and we’re constantly working to improve how we can best serve our driver community.”
The protests come after Lyft made its Wall Street debut in late March, racing to a $30 billion valuation on its first day of trading. The company’s stock has since slipped about 25%, with Lyft reporting on Tuesday it lost more than $1 billion during the first quarter of 2019. The protests also come right as Uber, the dominant ride-hailing app, is set to go public on Friday.
In New York City, protesters carried signs reading “Invest in our lives, not in their stocks!”
Ahead of going public, Uber said in a regulatory filing it has had to curb driver fares and bonuses to stay competitive in many markets.
“[A]s we aim to reduce driver incentives to improve our financial performance, we expect driver dissatisfaction will generally increase,” Uber’s S-1 filing said.
In the U.K., drivers are seeking a fare increase from £1.25 per mile to £2 per mile, or about $2.60. The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which helped organize the protests in England and Scotland, called Uber’s business model “unsustainable” and said it depends on “large scale worker exploitation, tax avoidance and regulatory arbitrage.”