L. Giering is a student, communist, and former Uber driver, who was forced out of the rideshare industry due to its slim profit margins and high expenses. He wrote the following solidarity statement to drivers striking today, May 8th.
Rideshare workers for Uber and Lyft are planning to strike in several US cities today, May 8th. Drivers in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Washington DC have agreed to stay offline for 12 hours today in protest of low pay and unfair contract terms that increasingly shave off profit margins for drivers. As a former Uber and Lyft driver myself who had to abandon the job because of the poor pay, I experienced the same poor treatment and send my firmest solidarity to the drivers who are choosing to strike.
As contractors, rideshare drivers have more financial responsibilities than most other jobs, yet they often make less per hour, and often fail to make minimum wage per hour. It is even worse for couriers, who are very often paid less than $10/hr before expenses. I spent several months driving for Uber EATS in addition to shuttling passengers; I would have outright lost money if I were driving a vehicle that got any less than 25 miles per gallon. Sometimes I was effectively paying to work for Uber, which naturally contributed to my eventual departure. Rideshare drivers and couriers, known together as ‘gig-economy’ workers, are conveniently labeled as contractors, while having few of the freedoms all workers should have. The executives of these companies have cleverly shifted the burden of basic business expenses to their workers while neglecting to compensate us appropriately for those expenses, be it tolls, gas, or repairs.
This is what the gig economy is, in the grand scheme of things—and why it is so important to strike. While gig-economy executives make billions of the toil of workers, and seek to sow division between part-time and full-time workers, workers must stand together. Those who do not have the luxury of treating their Uber and Lyft work as a “side-gig” should not be condemned to live in abject poverty. Those workers who provide essential services to the economy should not live in destitution. A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work was the call of the old labor movement in the United States, and we must take it up again, all workers, together, against those who buy yachts with our hard work. Solidarity to the strikers, and may the strike serve as a mechanism for underlining our collective power as workers. As famous communist and labor activist Joe Hill once wrote, “If the workers take a notion, They can stop all speeding trains.”