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Uber and Lyft drivers strike outside Uber headquarters today

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Before Friday’s multibillion-dollar IPO, drivers demand better wages and basic benefits

Uber protest in San Francisco
Annette Ribero, left, of San Jose, and Jeff Terry, of Sacramento, hold signs during the demonstration outside of Uber headquarters.
Photo by AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Before the company’s initial public offering on Friday, Uber drivers in at least 10 U.S. cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco, will halt business and strike for up to 24 hours today.

The workers will demand, in part, better wages, basic benefits, and an end to exploitative pay policies from Uber and Lyft, ride-hailing mammoths valued at billions of dollars each.

The San Francisco protest will involve more than 200 drivers from both companies, who will gather outside of Uber’s headquarters at noon. Drivers will turn off their apps for 12 hours.

Drivers in SF are demanding Uber and Lyft pay drivers a livable hourly rate (after expenses); clear policies on wages, tips, fare breakdowns, and deactivations; benefits such as disability, workers comp, retirement, health care, death benefits, and paid time off; and a recognized independent worker organization.

Striking workers in Los Angeles, set to protest at Los Angeles International Airport, will also demand a $28 an hour wage.

The company, whose IPO is estimated to run upward of $90 billion, has approximately 3 million drivers in 65 countries. However, Uber willfully admitted that the company lowered fares and bonuses for drivers in an effort to remain profitable.

“[A]s we aim to reduce driver incentives to improve our financial performance, we expect driver dissatisfaction will generally increase,” noted the company’s recent S-1 filing.

“Drivers are workers and we deserve a fair share of the millions that we make for Uber and Lyft each year,” said Uber driver Mostafa Maklad in a written statement. “We are all driving to survive, but we work for a company that makes us fend for ourselves when times are tough. Uber and Lyft can choose to change; a living wage, healthcare, paid time off and worker protections aren’t too much to ask from companies potentially worth more than $100 billion.”

Uber and Lyft also own and manage other enterprises when it comes to transportation, including electric scooters, bike shares, and partnerships to provide other assorted transit-related solutions.

In addition to worker frustration, the IPO filing will add a horde of fresh multimillionaires to San Francisco, newly minted denizens who will be better able to snap up what little housing stock remains in the city. (According to the California Association of Realtors, the median price of a home in SF in January 2019 was $1.33 million.)

In March, District Four Supervisor Gordon Mar warned colleagues about the upcoming IPOs, “We’ve seen the aftermath when major startups go public, transforming hypothetical money into real money.”

Mar went on to predict dire consequences for the city after “minting millionaires and billionaires overnight,” calling San Francisco’s 2019 IPO bacchanalia “the benefit of the few and harm to the many.”

Update: Here are some scenes outside of Uber’s Market Street headquarters during this afternoon’s protest.