Crossing the digital picket line? Uber and Lyft offer discounts as drivers strike
Uber and Lyft are offering riders and drivers discounts and incentives to use the app on Wednesday as drivers seeking better wages strike across the US.
Uber drivers are shutting off apps in protest across more than a dozen US cities as the company prepares to go public, demanding better pay and more protections. To support the drivers, advocates have called on users to stay off the app on Wednesday. But this week, many customers of Lyft and Uber have reported receiving coupons and discount codes timed around the protest, leading many to claim the companies are trying to lure them over the digital picket line.
Cities where Uber drivers are protesting or shutting off the app include San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, San Diego, Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle.
Drivers reported the app was also sending out incentives to get them to drive on Wednesday. One driver in the Bay Area shared a screenshot from his app that would give him an extra $8 for three consecutive trips on Wednesday morning, and an extra $5.50 for a three trip series later in the day.
Multiple Uber customers in New York City have reported being offered a 20% off coupon for each ride every day this week. Uber customers in Los Angeles reported being offered $10 off of all rides this week as well. The company also offered riders in the Bay Area 10% off rides for five days this week, including the day of the protest.
“I’m not surprised, but frankly it’s absolutely disgusting Uber and Lyft would incentivize both riders and drivers to break the strike today,” said Rebecca Stack-Martinez, an Uber driver helping to organize the protest in front of Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Drivers in San Francisco have four main demands: a living wage, transparency in decision-making, employee benefits and a voice in company decisions. Uber executives are poised to make billions when the company goes public on Thursday. Uber did not respond to a request for comment regarding the coupons. A spokesman from Lyft said drivers’ hourly earnings have increased over the past two years and suggested the platform is meant to be used for supplemental income rather than full-time positions. He said on average, Lyft drivers earn over $20 an hour.
“We know that access to flexible, extra income makes a big difference for millions of people, and we’re constantly working to improve how we can best serve our driver community,” he said.
Stack-Martinez said activists and drivers are monitoring Uber to see how the platform engages with the protests on Wednesday. Uber’s surge pricing model increases costs for riders and fares for drivers when demand is high. Activists have suggested Uber may remove surge pricing for riders to make it look like the strike is not effective, or raise surge pricing on the drivers’ apps to incentivize them to break the strike.
“We are expecting them to manipulate the surge pricing to make it look like our action is not effective,” she said. “They will do anything in their reach to avoid paying drivers a living wage and treat them with the respect they deserve.”