Just days before Uber is set to make its "blockbuster" debut on the public market, ride-hailing drivers with both Uber and Lyft are going on strike across the globe on Wednesday to protest "poverty wages" and virtually non-existent worker protections.
"This is an act of solidarity with drivers across the country, and really across the world, who are suffering with poverty wages."
—Bhairavi Desai, New York Taxi Workers Alliance
"We don't want our wages to stay just minimum. We want Uber to answer to us, not to investors," Sonam Lama, an Uber driver and member of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), said in a statement ahead of Wednesday's strike. "The gig economy is all about exploiting workers by taking away our rights. It has to stop. Uber is the worst actor in the gig economy."
"I'm striking for my kid's future," Lama said. "I have a five-year-old son, and I drive for Uber to support him. But it's becoming harder and harder."
According to the NYTWA, drivers plan to strike in major cities across the United States as well as in Brazil, Australia, Chile, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Nairobi, and other nations.
"This is an act of solidarity with drivers across the country, and really across the world, who are suffering with poverty wages," said NYTWA executive director Bhairavi Desai.
Todd Wolfson, a Rutgers University professor who studies the gig economy, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Wednesday's action is the largest-ever global work stoppage by ride-hailing drivers.
Support Uber & Lyft drivers as they strike against these multi-billion dollar corporations for fair pay, safer working conditions, & representation! Don’t cross the picket line—DO NOT USE your Uber and Lyft apps this Wednesday, May 8th! #StrongerTogether #WorkUnitesUs #Strike #1u pic.twitter.com/fLyklTeJH4
— SD Building Trades (@SD_BldgTrades) May 6, 2019
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The global strike began Wednesday morning and is expected to continue through early Thursday. Drivers urged the public to participate in the strike by refusing to use Uber and Lyft while the action is ongoing.
As the Washington Post reported, authorities in major cities are preparing for significant travel disruptions at airports due to the strike, which will include a rally outside Uber's San Francisco headquarters and demonstrations at regional offices nationwide.
"Our expenses keep going up. Meanwhile, these companies are getting rich," Kevin Raghu, a Lyft driver and NYTWA member, said in a statement. "We are asking for our fair share and for job security."
Ride in solidarity with Lyft/Uber drivers tomorrow, Wednesday 5/8. Turn off your apps. Support striking drivers who are demanding job security and livable incomes! #StrikeUberLyft pic.twitter.com/R3Tk13o1Co
— Working Families Party (@WorkingFamilies) May 8, 2019
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, expressed solidarity with Uber and Lyft workers in a tweet late Tuesday.
"Uber is a multibillion-dollar company," said Sanders. "Its top five executives made $143 million last year. Their drivers should not be getting pay cuts—they deserve a living wage and decent benefits."