Uber, Lyft drivers in Philadelphia rally as part of nationwide protest

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Some drivers for ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft turned off their apps to protest what they say are declining wages at a time when both companies are raking in billions of dollars from investors.

Organizers planned demonstrations in 10 U.S. cities Wednesday, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, as well as some European locations like London.

Uber and Lyft drivers in Philadelphia joined the day of action with a rally that began at noon. However, unlike in other major cities, drivers continued picking up passengers.

The protests arrived just ahead of Uber's initial public stock offering, which is planned for Friday. Uber hopes to raise $9 billion and is expected to be valued at up to $91.5 billion.

"We deserve 80 percent of that pie," said Angela Vogel with the Philadelphia Drivers Union outside Uber Greenlight Hub in Southwest Philadelphia.

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Uber, Lyft drivers to rally in Philly. Tamala Edwards reports during Action News Mornings on May 8, 2019.

It's not the first time drivers for ride-hailing apps have staged protests. Strikes were planned in several cities ahead of Lyft's IPO last month, although the disruption to riders appeared to be minimal.

"Nobody is giving us solutions, nobody is educating the public on choosing safe pickup and drop off spots, and Uber and Lyft are - as they should be - funding what would be the modern version of a taxi stand," Vogel added.

"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," said Brendan Sexton, executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild, in a statement. "All drivers deserve fair pay."

In New York, striking drivers shut down their services at 7 a.m. and planned to remain inactive until 9 a.m., though reporters found it was still easy to locate a driver during rush hour near Wall Street.

Drivers in Los Angeles are planning a 24-hour strike and picket line at Los Angeles International Airport.

Uber, in a prepared statement Wednesday, said it is constantly working to improve the working environment for drivers.

"Drivers are at the heart of our service, we can't succeed without them and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road."

Lyft said its drivers' hourly earnings have increased over the last two years, that 75% of its drivers work less than 10 hours per week to supplement existing jobs and that on average the company's drivers earn over $20 an hour.

"We know that access to flexible, extra income makes a big difference for millions of people, and we're constantly working to improve how we can best serve our driver community," Lyft said.

In New York, striking drivers are planning to proceed in a caravan across the Brooklyn Bridge and then hold a rally outside Uber and Lyft offices in Queens.

In Philadelphia, driver Gregory Lioi who says he's completed more than 3,000 says all he wants is to be treated fairly and like an employee, not a contracted individual.

"I can tell you, I've seen the pay dwindling every single day," Lioi said. "A corporation that's making billions can afford to pay us a decent wage," he added.

Greenlight Hub management did agree to a brief meeting with the leaders of the drivers' union so they can hand them a full list of their demands, but it didn't appear to go beyond a brief exchange of documents.
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