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Protesting 'Poverty Wages' and Exploitation, Uber and Lyft Drivers Go on Strike Across the Globe

"The gig economy is all about exploiting workers by taking away our rights. It has to stop."

Uber drivers protest the company's fare cuts and in front of the car service's New York offices. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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.

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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."

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."

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