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Uber And Lyft Drivers Strike In California


Lyft and Uber, the two big rivals in the ridesharing world, are getting ready to go public - and Lyft is getting there first. Lyft's initial public offering is happening this morning. The companies are fierce competitors, but drivers from Lyft and Uber have banded together. When the Lyft IPO was announced, many ride share drivers in LA just refused to drive. David Greene spoke to Nicole Moore, the Lyft driver who organized the strike.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: What's a typical day like for you when you're driving?

NICOLE MOORE: I'm one of the folks who is a part-time driver. So I actually work in a regular day job. My coworkers in the ride share industry depend on the work from driving as the sole support for their family. And - just my own experience - I've been driving two years. When I started, I could do an eight to sometimes 10 or 11-hour night and bring home $150 to $200. On Friday, I drove about 10 hours after work, and it was a particularly bad day. But you know, I made $90 in 10 hours of driving around.

GREENE: What's changed?

MOORE: Both Lyft and Uber are driving the wages down to see - what is the lowest amount of money they're willing to accept?

GREENE: People who hear what they think are positive about these companies are like that - sure you have to take care of your own car and repair it, but that in many ways, you know, you can be your own boss. Is there any benefit in that? I mean, do you feel some sense of freedom being able to decide when you drive, how much you drive?

MOORE: There is no doubt that most of us are very happy to decide when we work and turn on the app when we need to. But in terms of the independent freedom of being able to turn your app on, if you're making $35 in six hours of driving, yeah, you have the independence to work an 18-hour day and barely make a living. There's no independence in that. If you could earn a living driving a decent eight-hour day three years ago and now you can barely pay the rent, and you have to decide whether to buy a sandwich or put gas in your car just to make a few more dollars, it's not independence.

GREENE: Do you feel like things are changing potentially because Lyft is trying to go public? I mean, their IPO is happening as we speak.

MOORE: Absolutely. Both Lyft and Uber are trying to figure out how to make their companies look profitable to investors. And so, who are they squeezing? The folks doing the work for the company. And, you know, the people say, oh, well, it's the future of work. It's innovation. We don't think you can have innovation without having true labor standards.

GREENE: Yeah. I wanted to ask you about that. You sound, obviously, like you have something you want to fight for. But it has to be different - right? - to be organizing in a situation like this. I mean, how do you organize when your drivers are all in different places across the city?

MOORE: We're different places and our primary relationship is with the app on our phone. You know, that's a great way to keep a workforce divided. At the airports, we get to stand around and wait for fares, you know. And so we get to talk to each other. It's kind of the watercooler of the driver-gig economy.

And so we talk to each other there. And that's really where the kind of - the seeds of - hey, we need to do something about this - came from. And if the future of work is this dire, that people are working 12, 14-hour days, six to seven days a week just to put food on the table and gas in their tank, then we have to create the future of organizing.

GREENE: And you're confident that you can build something? I mean, do you think the strike this week went well, and you think you could build on that and do more of it?

MOORE: Absolutely. This was just the beginning.

GREENE: Nicole, thanks so much for spending some time with us.

MOORE: Great talking with you.

MARTIN: That was David speaking with Nicole Moore. She organized the recent ride share strike in LA. We reached out to Lyft and Uber for comment. Lyft told us that they have not changed rates in LA in the last 12 months. Uber said they made rates comparable to where they were in September, before they raised rates, but also introduced a new feature they say will give drivers more control over how they earn. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.