Investors may be excited about the upcoming Lyft IPO but drivers are bracing for more pay decreases as a result.
Lyft drivers protested an investor luncheon at the Omni Hotel on California Street on Monday for compounding cuts to rates they earn on each ride. Both Uber and Lyft significantly altered the pay scale in favor of time and away from mileage in November, which drivers say is the latest change that has meant longer work hours to earn the same amount. Drivers feel Uber and Lyft profits have continuously come at the cost of driver pay.
“That seems to be their business model — let’s squeeze these drivers,” says Rebecca Stack, a Lyft and Uber driver who lives in San Francisco. “I can only imagine what’s going to happen when these IPOs come and they don’t have profits to show for it.”
The protest comes as drivers go on strike by logging off for 25 hours in Los Angeles and San Diego over pay cuts. Gig Workers Rising, which formed last summer, opted to send a message to investors courted during Lyft’s tour before its IPO.
Stack has continuously changed her driving strategy to make similar income but not all drivers have that ability, which she says represents a departure from Uber and Lyft touting flexible schedules. Stack herself doesn’t feel safe driving late on weekend nights to earn more, which now comes in the form of a flat surge pricing fee for drivers, single parents may have to be home by a certain time to pick up children, and others may have additional jobs.
As more drivers were angered by earning less in a region with high cost of living, they found one another and started demanding fair treatment. They seek living wages, benefits, a worker’s group to be part of the decision-making, and transparency on tips, deactivations, bonus structures, and surge pricing.
The biggest change came from both Uber and Lyft in November, which driver Steve Gregg said was the biggest pay cut and arrived two days before Thanksgiving. Gregg used to be able to have weekends off to spend time with his three children in Antioch, using bonuses to pay the $1,000 monthly rental on the vehicle.
But as rate formulas and bonus structures changed with little transparency, he has to work six or seven days a week to earn a similar amount. Stack says she would have made $1,500 less a month without adjusting her strategy based on time as well.
“The only thing I had left to adjust with was time, making less and less money, which feels foolish at this point,” says Steve Gregg, a full time Lyft driver of two years. “I’m just trying to find life in between the cracks and exhaustion.”
Gregg isn’t optimistic that investors will listen but hope they will recognize that Lyft may not be the most reliable company to invest in if their drivers feel cheated. At the very least, they’re hoping for more drivers to find groups like Gig Workers Rising to stay active.
After all, rideshare companies benefit by the isolate nature of contracted drivers who burn out and leave the field. Drivers like Gregg and Stack feel they’re just considered robots behind the wheel until self-driving cars take off.
“The gig economy is new right now and tech can be a blessing to all of us but we can’t forget that there’s often a human impact on the other end of it,” Stack says. “Their well is going to run dry and they need to fit in how fair wages for drivers is going to fit in.”