LIFESTYLE

Date night strike: Thousands of US, UK delivery, ride-hailing drivers stop work on Valentine’s Day

Feb 13, 2024, 4:02 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2024, 2:26 pm

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2021 file photo, a passer-by walks past a sign offering directions to an Ube...

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2021 file photo, a passer-by walks past a sign offering directions to an Uber and Lyft ride pickup location at Logan International Airport, in Boston. Thousands of U.S. ride-hailing workers plan to park their cars and picket at major U.S. airports Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in what organizers say is their largest strike yet in a drive for better pay and benefits. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Thousands of ride-hailing and delivery workers in the U.S. and the U.K. went on strike on Valentine’s Day, calling for higher pay and other changes to their working conditions.

In the U.S., Uber and Lyft drivers planned daylong strikes in Chicago; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Miami; Orlando and Tampa, Florida; Hartford, Connecticut; Newark, New Jersey; Austin, Texas; and Providence, Rhode Island. Drivers were also holding midday demonstrations at airports in those cities, according to Justice for App Workers, the group organizing the effort.

Meanwhile, U.K. delivery drivers for Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Just Eat and Stuart said they would turn off their apps and refuse deliveries between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. The group Delivery Job U.K., which called for the walkout, said on Instagram that the strike was “a crucial opportunity to be seen and heard by society.”

Of eight delivery drivers who spoke with The Associated Press on the streets of London Wednesday, all but one said they planned to halt work at 5 p.m. Several, however, questioned whether the strike was long enough to make enough of a financial dent in the businesses.

“One day is not effective,” said Evadur Rahman. “If we strike more than one day — two, three, four days — they’re gonna be affected.”

Rahman, a Deliveroo driver who planned to participate in the strike, said his daily pay dropped in recent months from about 140 pounds ($175) for eight hours of work to around 100 pounds ($126). He said he wanted the company to raise the minimum rate it pays per order from 2.90 pounds ($3.64) to closer to 5 pounds ($6.28).

“They must improve the minimum pay,” Rahman said. “It’s not enough for survival in this country.”

Justice for App Workers estimated that thousands of drivers stopped working Wednesday, and said that workers in 12 or more cities beyond the original 10 had held impromptu demonstrations. Delivery Job U.K. had expected 3,000 people to strike.

Jocilyn Floyd, who has been driving for Uber for nearly a decade, joined the picket line Wednesday at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

“Uber has proven time and time again that they’re putting profits over people. In shareholder meetings they discuss profits; there’s no question about safety, protection from deactivation or compensation,” Floyd said.

Uber said Wednesday that the strike wasn’t hurting driver availability or customer demand.

“Despite the headlines, we’ve seen no impact to our operations or reliability for riders. In fact, in most markets there are more drivers on the road today than there were during the same period last week,” an Uber spokesperson said.

Uber and other companies that rely on self-employed gig workers say those workers appreciate the flexibility of the job. But many gig workers are pushing to unionize, saying that would give them the ability to bargain over compensation, safety measures and other benefits.

In November, that unionization effort saw a setback in the U.K., when Britain’s top court ruled that Deliveroo couriers don’t have collective bargaining rights because they aren’t considered employees.

Deliveroo said Wednesday that it has a voluntary partnership with a union that includes annual discussions on pay and it also provides couriers with free insurance and sick pay.

“Rider retention rates are high and the overwhelming majority of riders tell us that they are satisfied working with us,” the company said in a statement.

Rachel Gumpert, the spokesperson for Justice for App Workers, described ride-hailing as a “mobile sweatshop,” with some workers routinely putting in 60 to 80 hours per week. Justice for App Workers, which says it represents 130,000 ride-hailing and delivery workers, is seeking higher wages, access to health care and an appeals process so companies can’t deactivate drivers without warning.

But ride-hailing companies say they already pay a fair wage and have an appeals process in place for deactivations.

Earlier this month, Lyft said it began guaranteeing that drivers will make at least 70% of their fares each week, and it lays out its fees more clearly for drivers in a new earnings statement. Lyft also unveiled a new in-app button that lets drivers appeal deactivation decisions.

“We are constantly working to improve the driver experience,” Lyft said in a statement. Its U.S. drivers make an average of $30.68 per hour, or $23.46 per hour after expenses, Lyft said.

Uber said its U.S. drivers make an average of $33 per hour. The company also said it allows drivers to dispute deactivations.

___

Associated Press writers Jill Lawless and Brian Melley reported from London. Associated Press Video Journalist Melissa Perez Winder reported from Chicago.

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Date night strike: Thousands of US, UK delivery, ride-hailing drivers stop work on Valentine’s Day