Delivery Drivers Go on Date Night Strike

Workers in the U.S. and U.K. called for fair compensation and other changes to working conditions.

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Thousands of ride-hailing and delivery workers in the U.S. and the U.K. went on strike on Valentine's Day, calling for fair compensation and other changes to their working conditions.

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

Meanwhile, U.K. delivery drivers for Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Just Eat and Stuart said they would turn off their apps and refuse deliveries between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. The group Delivery Job U.K., which called for the walkout, said on Instagram that the strike was "a crucial opportunity to be seen and heard by society."

"Our request is straightforward: fair compensation for the work we do," the group said. "We're tired of being exploited and risking our lives daily."

Delivery Job U.K. said 3,000 people planned to strike, but it was unclear how many U.S. drivers would be participating. Uber said Tuesday that based on past walkouts, it didn't expect the strike to have much impact on its operations.

"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."

Uber and other companies that rely on self-employed gig workers say those workers appreciate the flexibility of the job. But many gig workers are pushing to unionize, saying that would give them the ability to bargain over compensation, safety measures and other benefits.

In November, that unionization effort saw a setback in the U.K., when Britain's top court ruled that Deliveroo couriers don't have collective bargaining rights because they aren't considered employees.

Deliveroo said Wednesday that it has a voluntary partnership with a union that includes annual discussions on pay and it also provides couriers with free insurance and sick pay.

"Rider retention rates are high and the overwhelming majority of riders tell us that they are satisfied working with us," the company said in a statement.

Rachel 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 drivers without warning.

Gumpert said last year's strikes at U.S. automakers β€” which led to more lucrative contracts for their unionized workers β€” 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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