Do Uber and Lyft drivers deserve higher wages? | The Tylt
In May of 2019, Uber and Lyft drivers went on strike around the world, demanding better pay and treatment from the ride-share companies. The strike comes on the heels of Lyft's initial public offering and a few days ahead of Uber's anticipated IPO, both of which will largely benefit executives, investors and employees, but not drivers. Drivers argue they do not make a livable wage and deserve a larger share of profit per ride. But according to Uber and Lyft, drivers are contract workers and should not rely on their wages as a primary source of income. Should Lyft and Uber drivers be paid more?
Do Uber and Lyft drivers deserve higher wages?
Uber and Lyft both classify drivers as contract workers, not full-time employees. Both businesses maintain that drivers' contract status is "key to their business models," as reported by CNBC.
Uber and Lyft drivers are classified as contractors instead of employees, which has exempted them from certain benefits like minimum wage and social security.
In 2018, Uber drivers' contract status was upheld by US District Judge Michael Baylson. The Verge's Andrew J. Hawkins reports:
...Uber does not exert enough control over drivers for its limo service, Uber Black, to be considered their employer under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The drivers work when they want to and are free to do what they want in between rides, Baylson said.
But drivers continue to fight the legal battle to have their status changed from contractors to employees, and Uber itself admits it may not be able to continue its success in court. Meanwhile, drivers say they are left with little to no transparency about how much they are going to earn off of each trip they make. Vice News' Rex Santus reports:
Transparency for pay — which is often a guessing game — was the biggest sticking point for Steve Gregg, a 51-year-old Lyft driver from the Bay Area. He said drivers have “absolutely no clue on every single ride” if they’re going to turn a profit.
“I drive until I’m exhausted every day,” Gregg said. “I don’t feel like it’s safe. I occasionally work 12-hours days. I get so tired. You just can’t. I’m not going to risk it.”
According to Gregg, drivers for Lyft and Uber must have multiple jobs or work up to 14 hours per day in order to make ends meet. He calls Uber and Lyft's treatment of drivers exploitive.
Lyft and Uber both maintain they want to do whatever they can to support drivers. In an official statement, Uber said:
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.
Lyft doubled down on the idea that drivers should not use the ride-share services as a full-time job:
Over 75 percent drive less than 10 hours a week to supplement their existing jobs. On average, Lyft drivers earn over $20 per hour. 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.
Critics of the protests side with Lyft's statement, pointing out that driving for these companies is supposed to be a side job. Uber itself markets itself as a "side hustle" to potential drivers.
But Lyft and Uber drivers claim that without them, the ride-share companies wouldn't have businesses at all, let alone take those businesses public. According to Mashable's Sasha Lekach:
Lyft went public last month at a $24 billion valuation. Uber filed for its initial public offering and is expected to start trading by Friday — with a $90 billion valuation. While some long-time drivers earned cash payouts with the option to buy stocks, many are feeling pinched.
The strike is meant to show Uber and Lyft how crucial drivers are to a business model that is bringing in huge pay for executives and corporate employees.
Uber and Lyft's valuation and overall success would not be possible without drivers, and the reality is many people rely on driving as a key source of income. Uber and Lyft must listen to drivers and accept the truth, rather than point to their original business models as a defense.