Impact of Uber, Lyft driver strike unclear
Uber, preparing for IPO, sees little change in Boston
UBER AND LYFT drivers and their supporters did a good job getting the word out to the public about a strike and boycott on Wednesday, but it’s an open question what effect, if any, it had on the businesses.
Uber, which along with Lyft dominates the local ride-hailing market, said it has not seen any significant impact on the service’s reliability or the number of drivers online compared to the monthly average. A spokesperson for Lyft didn’t provide on-record answers to questions about whether the strike affected business.
Ridership on the MBTA on Wednesday was also that of an average weekday, according to a T spokesman, which suggests there wasn’t a mass of people crowding onto buses and trains as an alternative to ride-hailing. A Boston 25 reporter who spent the day at Logan Airport told viewers that she had to inform some drivers about the strike, because “they didn’t even know this was going on today.”
Felipe Martinez, a former antique store owner who is now a ride-hailing driver and on the board of the fledgling Boston Independent Drivers Guild association, thinks Wednesday’s work stoppage did have an effect, but he doesn’t have access to the data necessary to make that determination.
The strike in Boston is part of a multi-city, worldwide effort timed to coincide with Uber’s push to sell stock to the public later this week. The goal of the strike is to push for higher pay for drivers, and organizers encouraged both drivers and passengers to avoid the ride-hailing services.
The drivers’ guild has about 250 members, according to Martinez, who said he wants it to grow it into a true force. At some point, the members could seek representation by a union, he said.
“What I want is relevance. I just want to be treated fairly. I don’t want my pay to be lowered,” Martinez said.
There is a big pool of workers who drive for the apps. Last year, state regulators cleared 190,000 drivers, according to the Eagle-Tribune.
Martinez said he prefers to be his own boss and he has never been a union member.
“I don’t know what I’m doing. I haven’t organized anything,” Martinez said. “I’m just a regular run-of-the-mill Uber and Lyft driver who’s been inspired by the stories of other drivers. We’ve been doing this since July.”
From a public relations standpoint, the strike had success, because it garnered coverage of drivers’ complaints and financial situations and support from prominent figures. Several prominent Democrats who are running for president publicly voiced support for the action.
While they have attracted strong interest from investors, Uber and Lyft have not yet become profitable.
Earlier this year, Stop & Shop employees put a big dent in the grocery chain’s bottom line and attracted the support of presidential candidates US Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.Those who drive for Uber and Lyft are not employees of the tech companies, and they are not unionized like Stop & Shop workers, who are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers. The AFL-CIO, which is an umbrella labor group, backed the action by ride-hailing app drivers.
“This isn’t a one-time show. We’re going to keep doing this,” Martinez said.