Hundreds of Uber drivers have gathered outside the company’s headquarters in downtown New York and chants echoed across the 9/11 Memorial Plaza: “Shame on Uber.”
Uber drivers were engaging in a 24-hour strike that began first thing on Thursday in response to the ride sharing giant’s move to sue New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) for approving a raise and fare hike.
Uber’s opposition to the raise and fair hike for drivers comes as the impact of inflation has caused the cost of living to increase across the country.
In November, the TLC approved raises for drivers by 7.42% per minute and 23.93% per mile. The raise would require that drivers be paid a minimum of $27.15 for a 30 minute, or 7.5 mile trip – an increase of more than $4.00 from original rates and more than $2.50 from current rates.
But Uber called TLC’s proposed hike “economically unjustifiable”.
The raise was expected to go into effect at the end of 2022, but Uber’s lawsuit has blocked it. On Friday, a hearing will be held to determine whether to keep or lift the order blocking the raise.
Abdoul Kere has been an Uber driver since 2016. He began driving for the company one year after he arrived to the US from Burkina Faso. He said while he makes nearly $200 on an average day from driving, the cost of business leaves him with virtually nothing.
“If you look at inflation, everything has gone up – food, rent, all the expenses. You have to maintain the car, pay the insurance, pay the tolls, fill the gas, and everything. So we are asking Uber just to help us a little bit. So if Uber stopped this [raise], that doesn’t make sense.”
He added: “We are partners. We are not slaves. Uber has to see how we are suffering to run this city every day.”
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), the union that represents drivers of taxi cabs, black cars also offered their support at the protest.
Javed Tariq, NYTWA’s co-founder, told the Guardian: “At this time we have over 30,000 members. Half of them are yellow cab drivers, and half of them are app drivers from Uber and Lyft … We struggle and fight very hard, to get this fare increase.”
“Drivers are suffering, but Uber is making millions of dollars every day off the backbones of drivers. So we are here together because of Uber greed.”
In November of 2021, after more than three years of protests, demonstrations, and even a hunger strike, the NYWTA was successful in negotiating financial relief with the city for taxi drivers with massive amounts of debt from purchasing medallions, the physical plate required to own and operate a taxi cab. The value of the medallion was artificially inflated and then dropped significantly, leaving medallion-owning drivers financially devastated.
Tariq said the NYTWA is prepared to put in the same amount of work in order to ensure Uber drivers receive this raise.
New Yorkers were asked by Uber drivers on strike to boycott the ride-hail app for the day. Uber said the strike would not affect service.
Uber has not responded to the Guardian’s request for comment.