Uber drivers strike in US ahead of public offering

Strikes in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego, Washington

Uber and Lyft drivers across the country are turning off their apps and striking Wednesday to protest for better compensation ahead of a potentially enormous initial public offering for one of the rideshare companies.

Uber is reportedly planning on selling company shares for between $44 and $50 when it goes public Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. This could see the company raise $10 billion, and value it at $84 billion.

Despite the success of the company, drivers complain of working long hours without a decent wage and not being able to make ends meet by working for the company.

Strikes are taking place in cities of Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego and Washington D.C.

“Drivers’ livelihoods should not be dependent on the whims of tech CEOs. We deserve to be safe on the job, we deserve healthcare, and we deserve to earn a living wage. It’s wrong for Lyft and Uber executives to make millions while drivers can’t afford healthcare,” driver advocacy group DC Drive United said in a statement about the protest.

Rideshare Drivers United, one of the organizers behind the strike, posted a “bill of rights” on its website. It includes a 10% commission cap for drivers, having an elected driver-representative appointed to the boards of directors for both companies and a complete fare breakdown with the driver’s compensation on the passenger’s receipt.

Uber, along with its competitor, Lyft, has long contended that drivers are independent contractors, not employees. The distinction has barred drivers from being offered certain employee rights and benefits including health care and paid time off.

A report by the Economic Policy Institute found Uber drivers earn the equivalent of $9.21 in hourly wages after factoring in fees and commissions, and accounting for a modest health insurance package and other benefits given to a full-time employee.

Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor spent two years investigating working conditions of 40 Uber drivers in Washington D.C., and found 33% took on debt that resulted from driving for Uber, 30% reported physical injuries or safety concerns and 100% experienced difficulties calculating their actual compensation.

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