Uber and Lyft drivers stage nationwide strike for right to unionize

July 21, 2021, 8:32 PM UTC
Uber and Lyft drivers staged a nationwide strike on Wednesday.
Tiffany Hagler-Geard—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. drivers in major U.S. cities staged a strike on Wednesday demanding better pay and the right to unionize, a sign of the intensifying fight by gig workers for more labor protections.

The demonstrations, organized by Rideshare Drivers United, call for drivers and passengers to turn off Uber and Lyft apps on Wednesday and boycott services to advocate for better pay, working conditions and the ability organize and collectively bargain. Rallies were scheduled in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Denver and Baltimore and Austin, Texas. The group didn’t immediately offer an estimate for how many drivers participated.

In New York City, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance is hosting an online seminar about proposed federal legislation called Protecting the Right to Organize, or PRO Act, in support of the strike. Worker-owned rideshare company The Drivers Cooperative “stands in solidarity” with fellow drivers, said co-founder Erik Forman.

Rideshare Drivers United, which has 30,000 members nationally, is also urging lawmakers to pass the PRO Act, which would overhaul labor laws by strengthening workers’ ability to unionize, establish protections from retribution or firing, forbid employer interference and influence in union elections and substantially increase the penalties companies face for violating worker rights. The legislation has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and faces a vote in the Senate.

The protest is the latest move by gig workers who have pushed for an expansion of labor rights and reclassification to gain hourly minimum wages, overtime, paid sick days, unemployment and worker’s compensation benefits. Proponents of making app-based rideshare and delivery drivers employees were dealt a setback in California with the passage of Proposition 22 in November, which deemed gig workers contractors while providing a limited set of alternative benefits.

“We will continue to fight for the PRO Act and a voice on the job until app-based drivers have the pay, benefits and respect they deserve,” said Brian Dolber, an associate professor at California State University at San Marcos who serves as an organizer for Rideshare Drivers United.

In a statement, Lyft said drivers in top markets, including California, are making more than $30 an hour. An Uber spokeswoman said the company “will continue to work collaboratively with Congress and our diverse community of earners on meaningful solutions to improve the quality and security of independent work.”

The strikes also comes as Uber and Lyft are trying to recruit drivers to meet the explosion in demand for ride-hailing as cities reopen. Many have been slow to get back behind the wheel after finding other work or resorting to government stimulus benefits during the pandemic. The nationwide supply crunch has led to longer wait times and higher fares for passengers, which cost 53% more in June than before the pandemic, according to Rakuten Intelligence.

—With assistance from Brody Ford.

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