Hundreds of Uber drivers plan to march from San Francisco City Hall to the company’s San Francisco headquarters on May 8, which the drivers believe is the day before the ride-hailing giant will have its initial public offering.
The drivers also plan to strike for 12 hours starting at noon that day, according to Gig Workers Rising, which is organizing the protests in San Francisco and six other cities around the nation, including Los Angeles and Chicago.
“Let’s disrupt the IPO and force Uber to treat drivers with respect,” the group said Wednesday on Twitter. The same day, the group also tried to deliver a letter addressed to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, but they say were turned away.
Uber did not return a request for comment Thursday about its refusal to accept the letter.
Mostafa Maklad, 35, was one of the handful of drivers who tried to deliver the letter, which asks Uber to pay its drivers a living wage, provide benefits and more. His photo appears on the group’s Twitter account.
— Gig Workers Rising (@GigWorkersRise) April 24, 2019
“They wouldn’t send anyone down to talk to us,” he said Thursday. “They just sent a security worker who told us he couldn’t accept the letter.”
Uber is set to go public next month in what could be one of the biggest IPOs in history. A date hasn’t been announced, but analysts and others say they expect the company’s stock market debut the week of May 8. While Uber touts programs and perks for drivers — including bonuses ahead of its IPO and testing opportunities for drivers to earn additional money — it has faced numerous complaints and worker actions.
Maklad will join the protest and will log off the Uber app all day on May 8. An Uber driver in San Francisco for four years, he said it is “the only job I can do that’s flexible with my classes.” He is studying cyber security at City College.
But he drives full time because he needs the money, and complained about Uber cutting drivers’ rates, decreasing the bonus it offers to drivers who reach a certain number of rides, and not giving drivers a voice.
“We’re called partners, but we’re not treated as employees,” Maklad said. “We’re treated as numbers.”
Uber said it holds driver advisory forums twice a year, where drivers — who are considered independent contractors — are given the chance to talk to executives including the company’s CEO.
Rebecca Stack-Martinez, another Uber driver and Gig Workers Rising organizer in San Francisco, says the company doesn’t share who’s chosen to participate in the advisory forums, so drivers don’t know with whom to communicate their concerns. She has tried to raise her hand a few times for the forum, but hasn’t been picked.
“It’s like having a town hall and saying only five people can come, and we’re not going to tell you who the five people are,” she said Thursday.
Uber noted in its IPO filing that it will give 1.1 million drivers about $300 million in bonuses as a token of appreciation ahead of its stock market debut — which could value the company at $100 billion. Maklad said he got notice that he will receive $500 because he has driven 9,000 rides, so he falls in the 5,000-to-10,000-ride level.
Another worker action that includes ride-hailing drivers is scheduled in Oakland and San Francisco on May 1, which is International Workers Day. Edward Escobar, founder of the Alliance for Independent Workers, says he expects hundreds of people to attend.