NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some Uber and Lyft drivers went on strike Wednesday morning as part of a nationwide protest.

Drivers shut down their apps from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and staged a rally at bridge entrances, including the Brooklyn and 59th Street bridges. They’re also planning to protest outside Uber and Lyft headquarters in Long Island City, Queens.

A spokesperson for Uber told CBS2 the company has not seen any significant impact to service.

“Drivers are at the heart of our service, and we can’t succeed without them. We’ll continue working to improve drivers’ experience for and with them, every day,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

MORE: As Uber, Lyft Drivers Prepare For Strike, New Hotline Unveiled To Help Drivers’ Mental Health

Wednesday’s action is part of a strike across major U.S. cities ahead of a huge moment for Uber — its public stock offering, set for this Friday. The company could be valued at more than $90 billion.

“Without us they can’t get that done. Without the drivers, how do they do it?” one asked CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.

Some rallies took place before Lyft’s IPO last month.

Drivers are hoping to draw attention to their cause: Pushing for better treatment, livable incomes, job security and regulated fares.

“We want better pay. We want fair practices. We want a better way of life and a fair living,” another driver said.

“I have to fight and I have to make sure that the drivers [are] getting their fare share,” Uber and Lyft driver Johan Nijman said.

The Independent Drivers Guild said, “Drivers built these billion dollar companies, and it is just plain wrong that so many continue to be paid poverty wages, while Silicon Valley investors get rich off their labor.”

Driver Jacky Lin said it’s about more than just the money, adding it’s too easy for drivers to be deactivated from the app — ultimately, losing their job.

“If a rider is unhappy with the ride, they can complain to the Uber app and tell them, ‘Hey, this driver was driving like a maniac. I want my money back,'” Lin said. “They report and make some false accusations against the driver and that results in the driver being kicked off the platform.”

In response to a surge in for-hire driver suicides, the Independent Drivers Guild and Black Car Fund launched a new “driver wellness” program offering free counseling.

“Too many drivers across our city are in crisis — with nine suicides that we know of in a little over a year. We are launching this program to provide drivers with much-needed support and to save lives,” said Brendan Sexton, executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild.  “At its core, this crisis is largely driven by the economic insecurity of the for-hire vehicle industry. At the same time as we stand up for fair pay for drivers and remedy the exploitation in this industry, we also must give drivers and their families much-needed resources and support. We aim to erase the stigma of mental health care, create a community of support and stop the suicides.”

“This new wellness program comes at a critical moment for for-hire drivers, who desperately need a stronger safety net as they struggle with the stress of an extremely competitive profession, and a more and more demanding daily life,” said Ira Goldstein, executive director of the Black Car Fund. “We hope that this program will not just improve lives—but also save them. Something must be done, and the Black Car Fund is proud to work with the Independent Drivers Guild and leaders like Public Advocate [Jumaane] Williams to reach out and offer meaningful help before it’s too late.”

“As a mental health crisis continues to grow in the community of drivers that has been New York City’s backbone, it is clear that we in city government have failed this community of hardworking people just trying to keep up,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “I’m glad that this new program will help provide some vital resources and support through a holistic approach that continues to destigmatize mental health care.”

For more information about the driver wellness program, click here


Leave a Reply