Taxis and local transit agencies have prepared to take advantage of today’s ride-hail organized by Uber and Lyft drivers to improve their working conditions.

SF taxis, BART may capitalize on international Uber strike

Ridehail drivers planning labor action as Uber goes public

When Uber and Lyft riders fire up their apps today, they may find themselves stuck at the curb.

San Francisco and other cities worldwide are expected to see an Uber and Lyft strike today, just in time for Uber’s expected $100 billion initial public offering.

Drivers are urging other drivers to not drive on the platforms in order to send a message to the multi-billion dollar companies: pay a living wage and offer real benefits.

“Drivers are workers and we deserve a fair share of the millions that Uber and Lyft make each year,” said ride-hail driver Mostafa Maklad in a statement from Gig Workers Rising, the group organizing San Francisco’s strike.

Its uncertain how many drivers will take part in the strike. But other transportation providers are prepared to capitalize on their absence.

Local taxi drivers may swoop in to pick up the slack, industry officials have told the San Francisco Examiner. And BART has also advertised its own group discounts to Uber and Lyft riders on social media.

The day of action has reverberated internationally: Drivers plan to strike and rally in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington D.C., and internationally in London, Sydney and elsewhere. In New York City, taxi drivers voted to support the strike by agreeing to leave their cabs in park.

But here in San Francisco, taxi drivers are spreading the word that riders will be available for pick-up.

“We will definitely be prepared to put out as many taxis as possible for sure,” said Hansu Kim, co-owner of Flywheel Taxi, which sports the second-largest cab fleet in The City. That’s roughly 260 cabs used by some 700 drivers.

Both San Francisco International Airport and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates taxis, sent notices to taxi drivers Monday alerting them to the Uber and Lyft strike. The subject heading read, “potential for high taxi demand May 8.”

“Due to planned strike action by Uber and Lyft drivers, there may be greater than normal demand for taxis on Wednesday, May 8 from 12 noon until midnight,” SFO staff wrote to taxi drivers. “SFO encourages the taxi industry to plan for this industrial action as you deem appropriate.”

And as for BART, the agency tweeted Monday morning, “Worried about the rideshare strike? Take BART to the airport May 8. Groups save 25% with BART Airport Discount App.” The agency included a link to their app in the tweet.

Ride-hail drivers speaking to the Examiner were none to pleased that other workers aren’t supporting their strike, likening the action to scabs crossing a picket line.

“Uber and Lyft destroyed the taxi industry” but “many Uber drivers were previously taxi drivers,” wrote Steve Gregg, a San Francisco ride-hail driver in a text message. “Cab drivers and rideshare drivers are all barely holding on. Rideshare drivers are demanding a living wage, transparency, benefits and a voice at work, which workers all deserve.

There are regulatory differences between Uber and Lyft drivers in New York City and those in San Francisco. In New York, they are regulated more like taxi cabs, leaving an uneasy truce among drivers.

In San Francisco, however, California regulates taxis statewide and takes a hands-off approach that many taxi drivers say has led to an uneven regulatory market and hastened the decimation of the taxi industry. That’s led to a particularly hostile relationship between taxi drivers and ride-hail drivers locally.

Bad blood or not, San Francisco Yellow Cab Co.’s owner Cris Sweis said he won’t be sending out additional taxis — because he can’t.

As Uber and Lyft have increased competition with the local taxi industry, cabbies have been in increasingly short supply in San Francisco.

“All of our cabs are out every day,” Sweis said.

Still, he added, “We’re putting word out to all of our drivers that Uber and Lyft drivers are striking and there will be increased demand for taxis.”

joe@sfexaminer.com

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