Drivers disrupt Lyft investor meeting with call for better wages, more transparency

Lyft and Uber drivers protesting for a living wage in San Francisco Monday morning tried to drown out a Lyft investor meeting at 500 California St.

“Lyft, Lyft you’re no good! Pay your drivers like you should!” the nearly 50 drivers chanted outside the Omni San Francisco Hotel.

Gig Workers Rising, a coalition of Lyft and Uber drivers, organized the event as part of a statewide series of protests, hoping to capitalize on Uber and Lyft’s initial public offerings. Lyft is speaking with investors across the United States before they launch their IPO, according to various news reports.

Some drivers also went on strike from the platform Monday in support of the action.

Rebecca Stack-Martinez, a Chicago-native who now lives in San Francisco and drives for Uber and Lyft, told the San Francisco Examiner that drivers’ take-home pay has plummeted recently.

She used to gross $6,000 monthly driving for Lyft, before expenses. Now for the same hours of driving, she makes $4,500.

Many drivers fear that Lyft will cave to outside pressure to reduce drivers’ rates even further ahead of their IPO. Lyft reported a $911 million loss in 2018, which grew from $688 million in 2017.

Stack-Martinez said she has changed when she drives to make up for the lower rates Lyft was offering. But some drivers with kids and other obligations aren’t able to chase higher rates by adjusting their driving times, she said.

“I had the flexibility to re-strategize when and where I can make money. Unfortunately not every driver is in that position,” she said.

Ultimately, the Gig Workers Rising protest made four demands: not only a living wage, but transparency, benefits, and a voice for drivers at work. Under the heading of transparency, drivers are asking for clear policies on wages, tips, fare breakdowns and feedback on why they’re deactivated.

That last issue, deactivations, was the subject of its own protests in November last year, when drivers asked for clarity on why and how Lyft boots them off the platform. Drivers alleged some passengers engaged in racist and discriminatory practices when pushing Lyft for driver deactivations.

Lyft defended its practices in a press statement.

“Lyft has a strong track record of helping drivers increase their earnings, and has led the industry in initiatives like in-app tipping, same-day payments, access to affordable rental vehicles and more,” a Lyft spokesperson wrote in a statement.

And while full-time drivers like Stack-Martinez argued Lyft’s policies disadvantage drivers who depend on it for full-time work, Lyft said that 91 percent of drivers on its platform drive fewer than 20 hours a week.

“Many use Lyft as a supplemental option in addition to full-time work,” a Lyft spokesperson wrote. “We are always open to conversations around how we can make Lyft better for drivers, but what we hear from the majority is that this is a flexible option that works for them.”

When asked to gauge how successful she thought the protest was, Stack-Martinez said at least one attendee of the Lyft investor conference told her there was growing support for drivers’ rights.

This attendee “walked up to me during the protest,” she said, then whispered to her, “‘you guys are talking about your wages? Keep it up because they’re talking about it right now’” inside the investor meeting.

Stack-Martinez said she took that to heart.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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