A fleet of more than 200 Lyft and Uber drivers announced today that they will pile into in 75 cars and drive roughly 600 miles from Los Angeles to Sacramento next week. The caravan will be advocating for the passage of a bill known as AB5 that would vastly improve their working conditions.
The drivers will make multiple stops for actions around the state, including Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco on Tuesday and the steps of the capitol building in Sacramento on Wednesday. “For the first time, drivers will use their sole work tool, their cars, to demonstrate publicly at key locations like outside Uber’s HQ,” reads a press release from Gig Workers Rising and Mobile Workers Alliance, which represent rideshare drivers in northern and southern California, respectively.
The AB5 bill, opposed by both Uber and Lyft, would force the gig economy giants to provide drivers with many basic labor protections that they currently circumvent. It would require them to classify drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. AB5 has already passed the House, is almost certain to pass the Senate in the coming weeks, and will likely land on the desk of California governor Gavin Newsom, an ally of both labor unions and big tech, on September 13 for final approval.
Annette Rivero, 37, who drives for both Lyft and Uber in San Jose, will join the caravan in San Francisco. “We want higher rates and benefits,” Rivero told Motherboard. “We want to show governor Newsom and all of the California state senators that drivers are united across California. This is not an isolated issue.”
Rivero says she’s seen her wages drop by around two-thirds since she started driving for the platforms two years ago. “Wages have been dropping since they started to offer pool rides,” she said. (In many cities, drivers earn less per mile on UberPool rides than they do on UberX rides.) A 2018 JP Morgan study found that rideshare drivers earned 53 percent less in 2017 than they did in 2013. Per mile rates have also plummeted in certain cities. In March, Uber lowered its per mile pay in Los Angeles from 80 cents to 60 cents per mile.
On the Lyft subreddit, many drivers voice concerns about dwindling wages, compare earnings, and ask other drivers whether working for the apps is still worth it. One user, u/AlltheGoodStars recently posted a screenshot of a 55 minute Lyft ride that they said earned $36.23, commenting “this used to be a $45 ride AFTER tolls. Now it's $20 (not even counting gas and time to get back). I'm done.” Another Lyft driver, u/larysarus6 posted a screenshot of their earnings on five consecutive rides from July 27, four of which totaled a dismal $2.62 per ride. A third driver, u/RedditIsControled posted a screenshot of a ride that amounted to $5.88 for them, while Lyft had cashed in $11.42. “Does this seem fair to you?” they wrote. It’s important to remember that rideshare drivers pay for their gasoline, tolls, oil changes, and all other car-related fees out-of-pocket.
To be clear Motherboard has not independently confirmed the specifics of those rides, but it's worth noting that there are many posts on the subreddit discussing Lyft's low pay.
In recent months, Lyft and Uber have sent out in-app notifications to drivers informing them that AB5 legislation could remove “flexibility” from their jobs. What they conveniently leave out is the bill would grant them access to health insurance, overtime pay, sick days, paid breaks, vacation time, worker’s compensation, and disability insurance—all of which they are currently denied.