Some Atlanta rideshare drivers decided not to get behind the wheel Wednesday as part of a global protest against Uber ahead of their initial public offering Friday.
Chants of "Uber, Lyft you can't hide. We can see your greedy side" filled the air on a hot afternoon, as dozens of drivers gathered near Uber’s Atlanta hub. Drivers also planned to protest outside of Lyft’s Atlanta headquarters.
Their demands included better compensation, safety improvements, and more respecting from the companies.
Evette Avery was one of the drivers who took part in the protest. Avery drove for Uber for four months before having her account deactivated due to a ticket. She said after that, she couldn’t get in touch with anyone to figure out how to get reinstated.
Avery said she still wants to support active drivers and wants riders to think before booking a ride.
“When you have no idea that you’re being charged so much, yet the worker that's actually doing the work is getting so little, it makes you think,” Avery said. “Do I really want to spend money with this company?"
More senior drivers, like Morton Patton, said they support the concept of rideshare, but the benefit of being a driver has decreased.
“It’s just not fair to the drivers,” Patton said. “We’re not being compensated for the service they’re actually getting.”
Patton has driven for Uber for five years and for Lyft for a year and a half.
Like most places, working for either company is completely voluntary. Drivers decide their hours by turning their app on or off as they desire.
Shay, who asked for actual name to not be used, started driving with Lyft two years ago and for Uber a month and a half ago. She said the suggestion to quit is a tired thought.
“I am sick and tired of quitting and getting a new job,” she said. “If this is a part time job for you and you have another business or another job, that’s great. But if you are an individual that’s in between jobs, understand that this company was advertised and promoted heavily as a great income maker. I want to make money how I want to make money on my terms.”
In two separate statements, both rideshare companies, Uber and Lyft, said they are working with their drivers to improve working conditions.
“Drivers are at the heart of our service ─we can’t succeed without them,” Uber said in an emailed statement. “Whether it’s more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections or fully-funded four-year degrees for drivers or their families, we’ll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.”
As for Lyft, the company touted the increase in driver earnings over the past couple of years.
“Lyft drivers’ hourly earnings have increased 7% over the last two years, and they have earned more than $14B since we launched,” the company said in a statement as well. “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.”
Uber's IPO is expected to be in the range of $44 to $50 per share. Meanwhile, Lyft's stock has dropped nearly 40% since it went public in late March.