Gig Economy (PAI) – From Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and New York to Australia, East Africa and London, drivers for the so-called “ride-share” services Uber and Lyft turned off their apps, took to social media, and refused to drive for hours on May 8.
Tens of thousands of drivers, including those in Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia and Stamford, Conn., refused to give service for anywhere from two to 24 hours to protest low pay and management control of everything but their hours – which are erratic – and their expenses.
That’s because the bosses at the two ride-share services arbitrarily classify their workers, at least in the U.S., as “independent contractors.”
That means not only can the drivers not officially unionize, but the firms further profit because they don’t have to pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, unemployment insurance and workers’ comp.
And since the firms force the drivers to buy or lease cars and buy gas, tires, insurance and everything else, the result is poverty wages, even as Uber and Lyft floated their stock on major exchanges the same week, earning billions for their executives and investors.
There have been two limited exceptions to the no-organizing rule. The Independent Drivers Guild, a Machinists affiliate in New York City, where 65,000 Uber and Lyft drivers struck, speaks for drivers to municipal authorities.
And a Seattle ordinance orders bosses of the ride-share drivers there to organize and bargain under city authority, assuming the drivers unionize. The Teamsters in Seattle are trying to organize them. But the firms have held up the ordinance in court.
Low pay, tight company control and lousy working benefits forced the drivers to strike.