Why we need to address the demands of striking ride-hailing service driversRoundup
tags: strikes, labor history, transportation
Mary Angelica Painter is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis and the Confluence Chapter graduate fellow for the Scholars Strategy Network.
Today, drivers for ride-hailing services “walked out” because of their paltry pay and lack of benefits.
During the recession, layoffs, unemployment and underemployment released floods of drivers onto city streets at the same time that new technology spawned transportation apps such as Uber and Lyft that allowed anyone with a car to offer rides to paying passengers. The abundance of drivers combined with lax regulations mean these ride-hailing services are a mess: In addition to low salaries and no benefits, protections for drivers and riders are scarce, and drivers have no say in the management of the industry.
This isn’t the first time that the drivers who provide rides for Americans resorted to a walkout to protest their mistreatment and unlivable conditions. In 1934, New York City taxi drivers stopped service and blocked city streets to call attention to grievances similar to those of ride-hailing service drivers today.
Thanks to the strike, city officials, taxi fleets and even popular media outlets grew concerned with the plight of the drivers — and with the need to keep the peace in a labor conflict tinged with violence. The need for robust policy moved to the fore. The strike and its aftermath reveal how ride-hailing service drivers today can refocus the narrative on their suffering, and not on the companies such as Uber and Lyft.
The Great Depression led many Americans to seek informal work in jobs that today would be hosted on such platforms as TaskRabbit, Care.com, DoorDash and ride-hailing apps — menial, manual labor jobs in the “gig economy.” Some worked temporarily on farms or as house cleaners. Many crafted homemade goods and sold them on the street to earn extra cash. Some became self-employed truck drivers. Many could only find work with the Mafia.
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