Uber drivers join national strike for higher pay

Uber drivers plan to sit idle in city centers in order to emphasize their growing importance in daily transportation, demand higher wages, and boost their employment status.

Mark Lennihan/AP
A crowd of about 350 protesters stand on Broadway in front of a McDonald's restaurant, on Nov. 29, 2016, in New York. About 25 of the chanting minimum-wage protesters were arrested. The event was part of the National Day of Action to Fight for $15. The campaign seeks higher hourly wages for workers at fast-food restaurants and airports.

Uber drivers in more than a dozen cities across the United States plan to go on strike Tuesday as part of the national "Day of Disruption" demonstrations to fight for a higher minimum wage alongside fast-food cooks, airport workers, home-care workers, child-care workers, graduate assistants, and other part-time workers.

Fight for $15, a labor movement which opposes employment policies that block wage increases, deport immigrants, and cut health-care benefits, organized the protests. Protesting Uber drivers are not only fighting to raise their $7.25 per hour minimum wage but also to change their status from contract workers to Uber employees.

"Everyone says the gig economy is the future of work, but if we want to make that future a bright one, we need to join together like fast-food workers have in the Fight for $15 and demand an economy that works for all," Justin Berisie, an Uber driver base in Denver, said in a statement.

Uber drivers plan to sit idle in city centers, making it difficult for passengers to get a ride in order to emphasize the increasing important role they have come to play in daily transportation. In San Francisco, drivers plan to join airport workers on the picket line with signs reading “Your Uber Driver is Striking.”

Since the Fight for $15 movement started four years ago, wages have increased in more than nine cities across the country. New York, California, and Washington, D.C., each approved a $15 minimum wage statewide. Now, on the heels of a Donald Trump victory, this protest is expected to be the movement’s largest yet.

“Workers in the Fight for $15 have created a powerful movement that boldly proclaims everyone who puts in a hard day’s work should receive a fair day’s pay,” Adam Shahim, a Pittsburg, Calif., Uber driver, said in a statement.

Uber has a history of conflicts with its drivers. Considered independent contract workers,Uber doesn't provide health care insurance, overtime pay, sick leave, and other benefits that come with full-time employment. Uber’s drivers have rallied against the ridesharing company before and explored the possibility of unionizing.

Uber claims that its drivers can make as much as $19 per hour, depending on which city they drive in. But Uber drivers are quick to point out that is before the driver pays for gas, car repairs, and auto insurance. Drivers on strike say that after all expenses are factored in the take-home pay is closer to $7.25 per hour.

While Uber has already settled several lawsuits with disgruntled drivers and improved its driver app, including Pandora integration, information regarding nearby gas stations, and personalized feedback from riders, but it has not agreed to change the employee status of its contracted drivers.

Protests are confirmed for Chicago, Houston, Denver, Detroit, New Orleans, Miami, San Diego, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Boston, and Oakland, Calif., and Tampa, Fla. Additionally, 19 airports serving 2 million daily passengers will also be affected by the Day of Disruption demonstrations.

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