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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Recent strikes show need for change within rideshare, food delivery industries

National reform is needed to prevent the mistreatment of workers in the rideshare and food delivery industry.

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The Uber app is pictured in the foreground of a taxi cab.

As a college student, I find food delivery services and rideshare apps essential to my daily life. Although these apps are convenient, we must examine the human cost they have had on the people providing these services. On Feb. 14, drivers from Lyft and Uber staged the largest national rideshare driver strike yet, protesting against inadequate wages, unclear pay calculation practices and sudden account deactivation. Rideshare drivers are classified as independent contractors which limits their ability to benefit from minimum wage laws, health care and other government benefits in the same way company employees do. Millions of Uber users — over 131 million users at its peak in 2022 — depend heavily on the drivers who keep these apps running, making it essential that these workers are protected.. 

Before Ubers and Lyfts gained prominence in America, taxis were the cornerstone for transportation in large cities. The difference between taxis and ridesharing apps now is that taxi drivers enjoy many protections that rideshare drivers lack. Taxi drivers in New York have been unionized since 1998, allowing them to negotiate fairer wages and enjoy employee benefits and protections. Rideshare companies give their drivers none of these benefits or protections. As independent contractors, drivers must pay for their own maintenance and gas expenses and are exempt from laws forcing companies to pay out benefits to their workers. Because of this, many rideshare drivers are paid less than the minimum wage in their state at just $9.21 per hour. With prices continuously increasing nationwide, this lack of a dedicated wage leaves many drivers unable to pay for their needs.

The problems facing the rideshare industry are also found in the food delivery industry. Food delivery drivers face many of the same issues as rideshare drivers. For instance, even though food delivery drivers recently saw an increase in hourly wages in New York City, Uber drivers have ended up being punished for this with apps limiting the hours they can work. Ultimately this may be forcing drivers to work faster and accept more trips to make ends meet, which actively causes many to lose money if they cannot fit into these new constraints. The drivers cannot even take legal action in the same manner as other workers because of their classification as independent contractors.

However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Drivers have scored many small victories in the past few years. In California, a previous proposition that labeled drivers as independent contractors, not employees, was overturned in 2021. However, it was reinstated in 2023 showing how the businesses still have a large amount of control over the industry. In Boston, Uber drivers have begun to speak out in support of a new bill that would allow drivers to unionize, thus allowing them to negotiate wages and benefits better.

These are all steps in the right direction. However, for there to be complete reform in this industry, the federal government must take action and acknowledge the mistreatment of drivers by these companies. There must be federal reforms to add national protections for drivers and call for rideshare companies to finally recognize them as full employees. As customers who benefit from these apps, we have a special responsibility to take action and support these drivers in their fight for equitable conditions.