Thousands of U.S. Uber and Lyft drivers set to park their cars and picket at major airports in Valentine’s Day strike

Connie Queline

Thousands of U.S. Uber and Lyft drivers set to park their cars and picket at major airports in Valentine’s Day strike

Thousands of U.S. ride-hailing workers plan to park their cars and picket at major U.S. airports Wednesday in what organizers say is their largest strike yet in a drive for better pay and benefits.

Uber and Lyft drivers plan daylong strikes in Chicago; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Miami; Orlando and Tampa, Florida; Hartford, Connecticut; Newark, New Jersey; Austin, Texas; and Providence, Rhode Island. Drivers also plan to hold midday demonstrations at airports in those cities, according to Justice for App Workers, the group organizing the effort.

Rachel Gumpert, a spokesperson for Justice for App Workers, said ride-hailing drivers in other cities may also demonstrate or strike for at least part of the day.

Uber said Tuesday it doesn’t expect the strike to have much impact on its operations on Valentine’s Day.

“These types of events have rarely had any impact on trips, prices or driver availability,” Uber said in a statement. “That’s because the vast majority of drivers are satisfied.”

Gumpert described ride-hailing as a “mobile sweatshop,” with some workers routinely putting in 60 to 80 hours per week. Justice for App Workers, which says it represents 130,000 ride-hailing and delivery workers, is seeking higher wages, access to health care and an appeals process so companies can’t deactivate them without warning.

Gumpert said last year’s strikes at U.S. automakers — which led to more lucrative contracts for their unionized workers — helped embolden ride-hailing workers.

“It’s incredibly inspiring. When one worker rises up, it brings courage to another workers,” Gumpert said.

But ride-hailing companies say they already pay a fair wage.

Earlier this month, Lyft said it began guaranteeing that drivers will make at least 70% of their fares each week, and it lays out its fees more clearly for drivers in a new earnings statement. Lyft also unveiled a new in-app button that lets drivers appeal deactivation decisions.

“We are constantly working to improve the driver experience,” Lyft said in a statement. Lyft said its U.S. drivers make an average of $30.68 per hour, or $23.46 per hour after expenses.

Uber said its U.S. drivers make an average of $33 per hour. The company also said it allows drivers to dispute deactivations.

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