Rideshare

Uber and Lyft Drivers Set to Strike Before Uber IPO

Uber and Lyft drivers in several major cities across the globe are planning a 2-hour strike set for May 7, 2019- the day before Uber shares begin to trade publicly. Labor groups who are organizing the strike are protesting the companies’ payment and labor practices, and hope that their early morning-rush hour strike will cause enough congestion to not only make Uber and Lyft executives take notice, but also the financial press covering the much awaited Uber IPO.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, rideshare drivers in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Los Angeles are scheduled to go on strike from 7AM to 9AM on Wednesday, May 8th. According to the Independant, the participating cities in the UK include London, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Glasgow.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance has released three demands to coincide with the strike:

  1. In solidarity with our driver brothers and sisters fighting to stop poverty and debt and in support of their national demands!

  2. To win Job Security for App Drivers by ending Unfair Deactivations in NYC!

  3. To secure a Livable Income by ending the scam of Upfront Pricing where passengers pay more but drivers earn less. Regulate the fare Uber/Lyft/Juno/Via charge passengers, and cap the Companies' commission, guaranteeing 80-85% of the fare to the driver!

Uber is projected to go public at the largest, or one of the largest valuations for an IPO. According to the New York Times, “Uber expects to be worth as much as $91 billion when it starts selling shares next month, making its initial public offering one of the largest in the history of the technology industry.”

While the rideshare company has become a political behemoth, noted for its bull-headed early strategy of entering markets before laws were created to accommodate it and treating cities like its own private laboratory, this moment before Uber’s IPO is also one of its most vulnerable. According to Business Insider, “Dara Khosrowshahi could get a huge payday — totaling more than $100 million according to a source — if Uber's IPO valuation hits $120 billion and stays at that level for 90 consecutive days.” This means that Uber’s CEO has $100 million on the line to make Uber’s transition to public company as smooth and valuable as possible.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

If drivers are able to generate enough strain on the rideshare systems to cause a public outrage, or even just a media one, then the drivers who are often considered to be exploited by rideshare companies can leverage this window of opportunity to either guarantee that Uber’s CEO doesn’t get his $100 million bonus, or demand more livable wages and treatment.

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders has even responded to the strike in a statement on Twitter, “Uber says it can't pay its drivers more money, but rewarded its CEO with nearly $50 million last year. People who work for multibillion-dollar companies should not have to work 70 or 80 hours a week to get by. I stand with the Uber and Lyft drivers going on strike on May 8.”

Although not specifically tied into the driver IPO strike, the environmental nonprofit and activist group, Sierra Club, has also entered into the fray with a new campaign, that takes advantage of the IPO media, to urge Uber and Lyft to electrify their fleet. In a statement to the Verge, Andrew Linhardt, deputy advocacy director at the Sierra Club said that, “they need to put real funding behind these incentive programs, especially for full-time drivers, and get them more quickly into electric vehicles. They have the market power to help shape the EV market.”

Whether it’s workers rights, fair pay, or vehicle electrification— Uber, and its executive team, have a lot to consider before their upcoming IPO. Uber is set to become one of the largest, if not the largest, IPO in market history at around a valuation of $91 billion. While there has been much mythologizing about Uber’s executive culture of relentlessness, in actuality it’s their drivers whose backs they built their fortunes on. Rideshare companies like to tout their environmental nature and efficiency, but in actuality their fleet still burns gas. With the May 8th strike, hopefully those who will benefit least from the company’s windfall will begin to have their say.

Rideshare Companies Should Offer an 'Electric Car Only' Option

In 2017 there were 159 million rideshare trips in New York City- with 66 million coming solely from Manhattan. In the same time period, globally, Uber facilitated four billion rides and created a $6 billion business with Uber Eats. This new influx of transport options has not gone without controversy, with rideshare companies being blamed for increased levels of traffic congestion in major cities, which leads to increases in pollution and carbon emissions and a decrease in public health.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

These companies aren’t going anywhere any time soon and have cemented themselves within the global infrastructure. Efforts to curtail the amounts of drivers able to work for rideshare companies, limitations on hours, and even so far as Lyft’s self imposed offer to purchase carbon offset credits, are all examples of efforts to reign in the new technology of on demand ride hailing. It is clear that technology has gotten ahead of regulation when it comes to ridesharing, and as these companies near their anniversary for a decade of existence, it is also clear that they are in deep need of an update to our current climate reality.

When Uber and Lyft were founded, they were considered upstarts challenging the status quo of the much entrenched taxi industry. There is absolutely no feasible way to consider these companies as upstarts anymore. They are both filed to go public, have more money available to them than potentially ever in the history of corporations, and have blown their local competition of taxi medallions out of the water. At some estimates, when both of these companies go public, there will be 10,000+ more millionaires in San Francisco— alone. These companies are the new status quo.

So how does all of this relate back to climate change?

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

If these companies are the new status quo, then they should act like it. It is an unavoidable fact that extreme climate change is happening, and that global corporations are a monumental perpetuator of the existential crisis that is currently facing the entirety of Earth.

At least with Uber, this is a company that has had to spend untold amounts of money, undergo numerous executive departures, and even changed their logo to seem more friendly. While historically less cutthroat, Lyft is also a company that really, really, wants you to think that they’re just your friendly neighborhood cab— despite the fact that they’re suing New York City over the city’s decision to make rideshare companies pay a minimum wage.

This is all to say that these companies clearly care about their public image, and have (since their inception) garnered enough economic standing to make global economic decisions. Elon Musk recently mused that Tesla’s mere existence speeds up the transition to the ideal of sustainable transport by at least 10 years. This makes total sense, given that when Tesla started out, oil and gas companies were actively lobbying electric cars out of existence. If Uber and Lyft gave their riders an option to filter their trips in a way that they only took their rideshare trips in electric vehicles, this could incentivize a similar electric acceleration in the rideshare market.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

66% of global consumers, and an astonishing 73% of millenials have reported that they would spend more money on sustainable products in comparison to less eco-friendly products of the same type. While an ‘Electric Only’ option might not be necessarily more expensive, there’s a chance for it to be slower. This could be a stretch of the imagination, but since time is money (or as the idiom goes), rideshare passengers might not mind the extra few minutes at pick-up, it they know that their trips are lessening the burden on the environment.

Neigh-sayers will say that electric cars still need electricity from somewhere, and that the majority of that electricity comes from non-renewable resources. This is true in one sense, that both ends need to be renewable for an electric car to be fully sustainable, but it is also usually a disingenuous attack. As more and more renewable energy capacity comes online, that electricity needs to go somewhere, and if a global rideshare corporation was to set a goal of having more riders go electric, then it very much stands to reason that is we can incentivize a transition— we should.

In conclusion, the argument boils down to this: are global corporations going to step up and take the climate crisis head on? In the case of rideshare companies, they have a potential to expedite the shift to electric transport. They currently aren’t doing much about this gleaming opportunity, despite setting mountains of cash on fire subsidizing the actual trips that they sell. If these companies really want to consider themselves the companies of the future, then they should better realize the reality of climate change.

Uber Set to Offer Their Best Drivers a College Tuition

In an effort to boost driver satisfaction and loyalty, Uber is launching a new program called Uber Pro. Amongst other perks, the rideshare company is offering its best drivers free college tuition through a partnership with the University of Arizona’s online program. The incentive covers both undergraduate and graduate programs that the school offers, and is good for as long as drivers maintain their status in the perk system.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

Uber Pro is a tier based incentives program designed by Uber to both improve relationships with its drivers, and also discourage them from driving with its major competitor, Lyft. In addition to college tuition, drivers can earn up to a 6% bonus on fares, free car repair for dents and scratches, cash back on gas purchases, and free 24/7 roadside assistance. The rewards are broken into segments, and as drivers drive more (while keeping their positive reviews), they will earn better and better rewards.

In order to be eligible, you need to meet a few qualifications. Uber Pro is designed for people who drive for Uber professionally—hence the name Uber Pro. That means people who drive for Uber regularly, and not just as an occasional lark. Uber isn't planning to restrict based on hours, however, qualifying applicants must have a high review rating, with a minimum of 4.85 stars, and a low cancellation rate of less than 4%. The goal isn't so much to encourage drivers to drive more, but to make sure when they are driving they are giving customers their all.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

Although the free college tuition is restricted to just one college and online courses only, you can still get 80 different undergraduate degrees using the program, fully funded by Uber. The courses, offered by the University of Arizona, are advertised to be the exact same coursework as their in person courses. They also have skill programs tailored to helping you in life, such as English language courses in addition to more technical offerings and graduate programs. For cash strapped students and drivers, this is an opportunity that may be too good to resist. To make the incentive accessible for even more drivers, Uber allows drivers to transfer the tuition to another person in their family.

Right now the pilot program is only being tested in eight cities. It's available to all drivers in Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans, and Phoenix, and to about half of drivers in Denver, New Jersey, Orlando, and Tampa.

There are four tiers to the program. Partner, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. In order to receive free college tuition you need to achieve either Platinum or Diamond status. You have the opportunity to go up or down in status once every 3 months, so even if you have a bad week, you still have the opportunity to do better and recover your status. You can also lose your status if you start exhibiting poor driving skills after achieving your coveted level.

After the initial test period, Uber plans to expand the program nationwide. If successful, this will become a great opportunity for Uber’s drivers- either giving them economic mobility that may have otherwise been out of reach or furthering them or a family member along in their professional life. While there are still issues in the relationship between rideshare companies and the people they contract to drive for them, this is an incentive offered in good faith that makes that relationship seem less tenuous.

RideAustin: The Nonprofit Rideshare App That Gives Back

Rideshare programs are popping up all over America, allowing drivers to make some extra cash from their vehicle, and giving passengers a new option for travel. These companies are both international, national, and regional. RideAustin is one such company. Based in Austin, Texas, allows Austinites to choose from background checked drivers, and even female drivers if they also happen to be female. It is a popular app unique to the area.

Where companies like Uber and Lyft entered the Austin market with company standards that did not meet those of the city of Austin's, RideAustin is a non-profit organization that was created due to Lyft and Uber choosing to leave the area. Lyft and Uber did not want to have to fingerprint their drivers, a piece of legislation local to the area that was passed when the concept of ridesharing was just getting started. The sudden loss of rideshare programs left a transportation gulf for both riders and drivers alike. Over 10,000 people who used the services were left without any way to get rides. RideAustin became the solution in the wake of Lyft and Uber leaving.

Now those who prefer to grab a ride through the rideshare program have another reason to choose RideAustin. Riders can choose to round up their fare to the nearest dollar, with the money benefiting the charity of their choice every time they ride.

Source:  RideAustin

Source: RideAustin

The charities available to choose from include options from Central Texas Food Bank, who's "mission is to nourish hungry people and lead the community in the fight against hunger," to the Texas Autism Society, which "is the nation's leading grassroots autism organization working to increase public awareness for those with Autism, advocate for appropriate services and provide information on treatment, research, and education."

In total, RideAustin has been able to donate over $250,000 just through the few extra pennies collected by charitable riders every time they ride. 

The company was a totally collaborative effort- built by the community, for the community. The app itself was donated by the tech field, and over 7 million dollars raised by the community and through various grants in order to bring it into existence. Because this rideshare non-profit was created with the community in mind, the Charity RoundUp option was built directly into the company, so riders could start offering a few extra cents to charity from the very beginning.

RideAustin also has several other community based projects in the works that also aim to aid those most in need in Austin. In a collaboration with the CCC (Community Care Collaborative) and the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas, RideAustin will pick patients up and help them get to their important medical appointments for free.

aerial-view-colorado-river-downtown-city-skyline-ANJFQBV.jpg

Even though Uber and Lyft are now returning to the area after the fingerprinting legislation was over turned, but they may not find the area as welcoming as it used to be. Not only do people fall into habits, but Austinites love their local app, and with other companies such as Fare having moved into the area as well since Uber and Lyft left, there may not be as many drivers or riders available for these companies. Especially since neither of those larger rideshare companies offer the ability to give back while getting where you need to go.

RiseAustin was born out of necessity, but has grown into something that the big rideshare companies could learn from. Uber and Lyft are often discredited for not taking their impact on the markets that they operate in into account, with Uber taking the majority of that criticism. Since RideAustin was made for the community that it serves, by the community that it serves- while also giving riders the opportunity to give back to that same community, RideAustin has become a model company that, while familiar to those in Austin, should be taken note of across the rideshare economy.

You can learn more about RideAustin on their website.