Fed-up Uber and Lyft drivers began a day of protests and strikes in New York City on Monday morning, demonstrating after an Uber lawsuit halted city-ordered pay raises.
On the Brooklyn Bridge, hundreds of drivers joined a guild-organized auto caravan into lower Manhattan. Their cars carried messages like “UBER PAY UP.”
The caravan, which led to a rally at Foley Square, was expected to be followed by another protest at Uber’s offices blocks away on Greenwich St. in the Financial District.
At Foley Square, drivers delivered speeches decrying the treatment they have received from Uber.
“We’re not hanging our hands out and telling them ‘give us free money’ — this is our hard-earned money,” bellowed Arifa Tirmizi, 38, a mother of seven children who has driven an Uber for six years.
The caravan included more than 500 drivers, according to the Independent Drivers Guild, which formed in 2016 and represents more than 80,000 New York City ride app drivers.
Drivers say they are being pummeled by inflation, and that they need a commensurate raise from Uber.
Striking workers did not appear to have a major effect on ride prices on the Uber or Lyft apps. Around 11 a.m., a solo ride from Wall Street to Times Square cost about $33 on Lyft and about $45 on Uber.
New York City’s ride-hail app drivers reacted with dismay after Uber sued the city over the wage hikes, which would lift per-ride pay by around 10%. The raises were scheduled to go into effect Monday.
Last week, Justice Arthur Engoron of Manhattan Supreme Court judge froze the hikes at least until next month, and set a hearing for Jan. 31.
The city appealed to lift the judge’s order, but was denied on Friday.
Uber claimed in its suit that the raises could tarnish the app’s reputation, burden riders during the holidays and depress demand, hurting drivers. It also said the the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, which ordered the hikes, relied on flawed inflation figures in determining the new rates.
“Drivers do critical work and deserve to be paid fairly, but rates should be calculated in a way that is transparent, consistent and predictable,” Freddi Goldstein, an Uber spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Lyft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The protests have caught the eye of local politicians. On Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Bronx-Queens Democratic firebrand, urged New Yorkers to boycott Uber. “Do NOT use Uber this Monday,” she tweeted.
Aziz Bah, 48, the organizing director of the Independent Drivers Guild and an Uber driver for nearly a decade, said he was pleased by the scale of the protests.
“Hundreds of drivers came out in full force to demand their raise,” Bah said in an interview. “Drivers are pushing back. Drivers are not just going to sit back and take it.”
“We want the judge who is going to decide that case to really hear the voices of drivers,” he said. “They’re not asking for a handout. They’re doing honest work. They are demanding to be paid fairly.”
With Luiz Ribeiro