From the March-April 2016 issue of News & Letters
New York—Uber, the rideshare company, promised drivers the sky when the company first hit New York: thousands of dollars a month while being your own boss and setting your own schedules. But drivers are learning that behind those promises there is yet another ruthless capitalist enterprise out to gouge them out of every penny it can. Now workers are fighting back, nationwide and in New York.
Over 100 drivers went on strike and rallied at Uber headquarters in Long Island City on Feb. 1, demanding the company cancel new lower pay standards. While Uber is lowering its rates for customers, it is demanding an increase in the commission that drivers pay to the company. There is less money in the pockets of the drivers both because fares are lower and because they have to turn over more to the company.
Uber helps drivers purchase their cars, but with a high interest rate. Drivers are responsible for gas and insurance. Consequently, as one driver put it, they have to work extra hours just to support their families. Three quarters of Uber drivers drive full time, so they have no other income. Some are talking about joining a union. Others, embittered by past experiences with top-down business unionism, are talking about organizing their own union. As one driver put it, “We need our rights, we need equality, we’re not being treated fairly.”