June: Drivers Protest Outside Uber CEO’s San Francisco Home
A caravan of drivers in their honking cars drove to the Pacific Heights neighborhood in San Franciso to protest outside the Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s house. As the song “9 To 5” by Dolly Parton blared from speakers on top of a protester’s vehicle, organizers and protest speakers walked up to Khosrowshahi’s home and unfurled a sign which read: “A Thief Lives Here.”
The estimated 40 to 50 rideshare drivers who showed up outside the Uber boss’ house are calling him a “thief” because they believe they deserve higher wages and health care benefits. This was done outside his new home which is currently estimated to be $17.7 on Zillow according to this Forbes article and this hones in the point of the Drivers that the wage inequality between the executives and Drivers is ridiculous and the company's malpractices has enabled it.
The protesters on Wednesday demanded that the company stop its efforts to circumvent AB5, a gig-work California law that technically requires sharing economy businesses like Uber and Lyft to reclassify independent contractors as employees.
The law went into effect on January 1 of this year but has not been fully implemented because Uber refused to comply with it and chose to contest it in court. Drivers are supposed to receive a minimum wage, and could be eligible for overtime pay, paid sick time, and other benefits. According to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle, it’s estimated that if implemented, the law could increase labor costs by as much as 30% for app-based companies like Uber.
Since AB5’s passage, Uber, Lyft, Doordash and other tech companies that rely on gig workers have spent $110 million on a new ballot measure for the November election, called Protect App-Based Drivers & Services, which aims to make them exempt from the AB5 bill. Drivers are expected to vote on this issue.
“Our demands are very simple,” said Cherri Murphy, an Uber driver who joined the protest outside of Khosrowshahi’s house. “Drop the ballot measure. Accept yourselves to AB5. You’re not only sidestepping democracy, you’re further ensuring your workers will be kept in poverty forever.”
It is unclear whether Khosrowshahi was inside the home at the time of the protest.
Protestors pointed out that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now even more vulnerable to bankruptcy and not being able to afford their day to day expenses. They are faced with tremendous financial insecurity as more people stay home and take fewer rides. Though, Uber and Lyft both are still not obligated to provide health insurance to rideshare drivers bumt after a caravan of protests and demands by Drivers, Uber has finally responded in recent months with an initiative which includes financial assistance for up to 14 days to drivers who have been diagnosed with Covid-19. Protesters say that is not enough.
San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar, an elected official who represents several districts in the city, also spoke at the protest, expressing solidarity with the rideshare drivers. “During a public health crisis, it’s immoral, it’s irresponsible to deny workers their basic rights,” said Mar. “We cannot and will not stand for this. Uber and Lyft and these other corporations must do the right thing, and more importantly they must follow the law and properly classify their drivers as employees. Unfortunately, we see them doubling down on their illegal business practices and spending $110 million on this ballot measure to try to overturn AB5. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors stands with Uber drivers and other app-based workers here in our city.”
Stacey Wells, a spokesperson for the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services measure, said in a statement to Forbes: “By a 4:1 margin drivers have said they want to remain independent contractors. They don’t want to be employees. That’s because 80 percent of drivers are part time and drive fewer than 20 hours a week and most drive less than 10. They’re driving to supplement income around other jobs and life responsibilities and wouldn’t be able to work as full time employees. That’s why more than 75,000 drivers support the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act on the November ballot.”
The protest lasted about an hour in the affluent neighborhood and Drivers put down handwritten messages outside his home on a pillar. “I don’t make enough money to pay the rental car, the gas, my rent, my food,” read one note.
The protest was organized by We Drive Progress and Gig Workers Rising, two advocacy organizations that are made up of rideshare drivers across the country.
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