About two dozen Uber drivers honkin' mad over a cut in fare gathered outside the tech company's Queens office Wednesday in protest.
The "driver-partners" behind the wheel of the low-cost UberX service spoke with the San Francisco-based company's management outside its Long Island City Office about the 20% rate cut aimed to undercut yellow taxis' business. They were upset that the new low prices were sprung on them via email the night before the change went into effect the morning of July 7. Drivers complained that the price cut being piloted during a slow season is making them work more hours for the same pay.
Shoaib Ashraf, a 29-year-old former yellow taxi driver who joined Uber three months ago, said he saw his take-home pay cut from $150-200 a day to about $100 to $150 a day.
"They shouldn't, first of all, cut the price without letting us know," said Ashraf, of South Amboy, New Jersey. If drivers are partners like Uber calls them, he said, "you have to ask them."
He suggested that Uber take just 10% less of the fare than it does now. Drivers said Uber takes 20% of the payment, but they pay 10% for taxes, leaving 70% of the money for pay and expenses like gas, tolls and cleaning.
Evelyn, a 53-year-old driver from East Harlem who did not want to give her last name, said she noticed an uptick in rides now that UberX undercut yellow taxis.
"I believe it's drawn more customers," she said.
Yet the boost in ridership doesn't mean the new prices were beneficial, she said.
"It's still drastic," she said, adding it is unfair to target only UberX drivers.
R.J., an Uber driver who declined to give his full name due to his job security, said he is trying to organize other drivers. He had 1,420 sign up on a website, driversnetwork.org, last week and estimated that the number of drivers is more than 1,500 drivers now.
"This is a great concept, don't get me wrong," he added, but complained that Uber has been operating in a "my-way-or-the-highway mentality."
Several Uber NYC officials, including its general manager Josh Mohrer, went outside to speak with the drivers to defend the rate cut.
In an interview, Mohrer said that rate cuts in other cities and here are giving drivers more riders per hour, letting them make up the difference, though he understood it can be "unintuitive" that cheaper fares means more money for drivers.
"The vast majority of our driver partners are having that experience, and actually kind of liking it," Mohrer said, adding that he showed drivers data proving they are not losing any money.
"They were legitimately surprised to see that their gross fare an hour has been the same or more prior to the cut," he said.
Bharat Lama, a 45-year-old driver from Jackson Heights who saw the data and spoke with amNewYork at Mohrer's suggestion, said he made the same amount the week of July 8, but drove 70 hours, compared to 40 hours the week before. He said he expects his hours to scale back once business picks back up in September.
"They are not on the road," Lama said. "When they are on the road, then they will realize."