More than 20 Uber drivers rallied outside Uber headquarters Friday morning, flanked by seven police officers.
“Uber’s greed, puts drivers in need!” they shouted. One organizer, Abe Husein, claims he was wrongfully terminated as an Uber driver after he began to organize drivers in Kansas City.
“We’re making less and less money,” Husein shouted, through a bullhorn. “Making less than minimum wage.”
The protest is part of a nation-wide Uber “strike” this weekend, with some drivers arguing a need for higher fares, higher cancellation fees, and for tips to be instated. “Drivers: Do not turn your app on for this whole weekend!” reads one flyer promoting the protest. “Stand together as one voice!”
The strike may have particular prominence in San Francisco, as its the site of Uber’s corporate headquarters.
Some protesters were reluctant to identify their full names, fearing they would be banned from the Uber app as Husein was. One of these drivers, who called himself Sam, said he’s been driving with Uber for more than four years.
“I started when it was gold,” he said. Now, “we’re at our limits.”
He said Uber’s policies have cut into his bottom line, resulting in many drivers becoming mired in debt due to excessive car loans. “Sam” has two children, aged 7 and 5, and also supports his wife and parents.
“I’m the main income,” he said, but now “it’s impossible to make it” with Uber.
During the protest, a fire alarm sounded at Uber’s headquarters. Security guards kept protesters on the sidewalk as employees housed in the building, from Square, Uber, and other companies, filed back in.
One man wearing an Uber badge, who identified himself as a contractor, would not give his name for fear of retribution from his employer. He said contractors are almost as bad off as drivers. “If you’re a contractor you don’t get benefits, or stock,” he said.
When asked if he agreed with the protesters, he said “hating Uber is popular,” and that employees tend to shrug off such complaints.
Uber’s investor valuation is estimated to be around $50 billion, known as a “unicorn” tech company – the tech nickname for companies with billion dollar valuations.
— Joe Fitz Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) October 16, 2015
Above, a Twitter video from the protest at Uber HQ, Friday.
Still, though Uber drivers may push for higher wages in the short term, the long term for these drivers may be grim. Uber has long vocalized a future with driverless cars, which CEO Travis Kalanick has publicly said will lead to lower prices for consumers.
It also means Uber will have little use for drivers. There are at least 16,000 Uber drivers active in San Francisco, according to numbers released by the company.
In response to the protest, an Uber spokesperson forwarded a statement from the company. “We always welcome feedback from driver-partners. Each week, tens of thousands of drivers across the U.S. begin using the Uber app to make money on their own time, to reach their own goals,” the statement said.
“Drivers say they value the flexibility and the chance to be their own boss, and choose Uber over other options because it fits around their life and works for them.”
Below is a flyer for the “#UberStrike.”