The group representing Uber-affiliated drivers in New York City will not be encouraging members to take part in a strike of app-based drivers planned in cities around the world Wednesday, but will be “standing in solidarity” with them.
The Independent Drivers Guild receives some funding from Uber and is opting out so as not to break its agreement with the company, which is set to go public by Friday.
“We’re standing in solidarity with the striking workers all across this nation which has now become a global action to demand a liveable wage,” said Brendan Sexton, the executive director of the IDG, after announcing a new wellness program the guild is launching for drivers.
Uber’s SEC filing has outraged drivers. In it, the company wrote that “we expect Driver dissatisfaction will generally increase” as it attempts to reduce incentives and “to improve our financial performance.” Like Lyft, the company is far from profitable.
A portion of drivers in New York City, roughly 10,000 workers, plan to strike between 7 and 9 a.m. in a fight for several demands including better job security and a regulated fare across the professional driving industry, with between 80% and 85% of fare revenue guaranteed to the driver.
Another driver group, the Taxi Workers Alliance, has supported workers’ efforts to join drivers in cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles and London in striking ahead of Uber’s Initial Public Offering. But the IDG is stopping just short of that.
“IDG is funded through multiple … ways: through grants, through membership dues, through donations — Also, partly, through Uber,” Sexton added.
“Like most union contracts, they have a no-strike clause. I don’t know any union contract that doesn’t have a no-strike clause,” Sexton continued. “And we’re proud to make sure that we were the first union to ever negotiate with Uber and get a contract.”
The strike comes after a number of taxi and black car driver suicides over the course of the last year and a half, which advocates have attributed to the financial hardships that have hit the industry since e-hail companies flooded city streets.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has taken steps to address driver pay, securing a first-of-its-kind minimum pay rate for app-based drivers, but many drivers still want more protections.
“Drivers are talked [as if they are] liabilities and not the actual heroes that built their empire,” said Bhairavi Desai, the founder of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. “We’re sending a message that drivers need to come first and that we can’t have drivers finally just at a minimum wage,” Desai continued, “and that’s after five years of poverty wages, while the company goes for a $100-billion valuation.”
Harry Hartfield, an Uber spokesman, pushed back against those charges in a statement.
“Drivers are at the heart of our service─we can’t succeed without them─and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road,” said Hartfield. “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.”