Around 100 rideshare drivers protested their working conditions this afternoon in Los Angeles, engaging in a “take over” of an Uber Hub, before joining up with a contingent of fast food workers from McDonald’s who were striking for the right to unionize.
The group behind the protest, the recently minted Mobile Workers Alliance (MWA), is associated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local 721. To our knowledge, this marks the first time rideshare drivers and members of Fight For $15—a grassroots movement agitating for fair wages among food service workers—have taken joint action. Besides combining physical ranks, a procession of ridershare drivers trailed behind fast food marchers and disabled a McDonald’s driver-thru by continuously ordering “fair wages” through the intercom.
“When I first started with Lyft everything was perfect, I was making about $25 an hour. But then the system started changing and they started paying less and less,” Linda Valdivia, an MWA organizer and two-year rideshare veteran told Gizmodo on a phone call. “They [were] getting on our nerves trying to make us do more rides no matter what the risk is.” If her story sounds familiar, it’s because drivers across the country have been making similar complaints—increasingly loudly, in public, and with hundreds of other drivers at their backs.
Earlier this month drivers staged mass international protests against Uber and Lyft’s business practices, timed around the former’s debut on the stock market. Los Angeles, in particular, has become a hotbed of unrest for gig workers, with major protests being led by grassroots groups like Rideshare Drivers United, which hopes to cap the amount of commission these platforms can extract from drivers, as well as instate the same $27.86-per-hour pay floor recently won in New York.
Uber declined to comment on the protest. We’ve reached out to Lyft and McDonald’s for comment and will update when we hear back.
MWA, for its part, is hoping for an even more ambitious $30-per-hour floor, of which organizers estimate about half would become take-home pay and the other half would go to the sorts of overhead expenses Uber and Lyft burden their drivers with by classifying them as contractors, such insurance, gas, and vehicle wear. “That’d be the ideal—to be an employee and not a contractor,” Valdivia said, “but right now we’re fighting for $30 an hour. That’s all we want, because it’s something fair.”
As for the decision to unite with fast food workers, Valdivia told the crowd of protesters outside a McDonald’s, “We both have a common challenge, and that’s the greedy executives that pocket millions and millions, but pay their workers very little.” She believes most Uber and Lyft drivers are earning below minimum wage at present. Notably, the minimum wage in LA county will increase to $14.25 in just over a month, and a flat $15 a year after that.
“They shut the doors. They went inside and closed the doors and the windows and everything,” Valdivia told Gizmodo after the takeover of the Uber Hub. “But we didn’t stop there. We made sure our voice could be heard.”