A group of Uber drivers calling themselves Uber Drivers United staged a protest in San Francisco recently, driving slowly from the former Candlestick Park, to the airport, through the city, and eventually to Uber headquarters while honking their horns and disrupting traffic. The issue for the drivers, most of whom will not release their names, is they are earning less than half of what they earned when they joined the company, meaning that many now earn below the minimum wage.
The protest was expected to bring together between 1,500 to 2,000 drivers, but the real number was closer to a tenth of that. Still, the drivers remain resolute and are alluding to a strike before the Super Bowl, which is being hosted in San Francisco and for which Uber will provide exclusive taxi services.
In the YouTube video below, a driver named Mario describes the upcoming protest and argues that given Uber’s role in the Super Bowl, drivers “have them by the balls.”
Rumors are circulating that Uber will drop its rate Super Bowl 50 rate to 50 cents an hour. The cut would exacerbate the financial burden the Uber drivers claims to be taking on. According to the Observer, Mario was very clear about the group’s intentions:
“We’re telling them we’re going to shut it down for the Super Bowl. We’re shutting it down. We’re shutting the highways down. We’re shutting everything down and we’re not going to allow Uber to keep screwing drivers over.”
In a separate YouTube video from the Monday protest, Mario alleges that he has as many as 3,000 San Francisco-area drivers prepared to join the protest, and that as many as 5,000 could join from Los Angeles.
Speaking to EnGadget, Uber denied the 50 cent per mile Super Bowl rate. Instead, they say they will be raising the per-hour guarantee to $35. In an attempt to explain recent wage drops, an Uber spokesperson told the Observer:
“Seasonality affects every business and Uber is no different, so when holiday parties wind down in San Francisco that can mean a slow start to the year for our driver-partners. By cutting prices for riders, we can give them one more reason to take a ride, which helps keep drivers busier during the slow season. To put drivers’ minds at ease, we have hourly earnings guarantees in place.”