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As drivers strike and IPO looms, SF steps toward taxing Uber stock windfall

Drivers of ride-hail companies switched off their apps Wednesday in San Francisco and across the nation to demand better wages and working conditions ahead of Uber’s anticipated $100 billion initial public offering.

Dozens of ride-hail app drivers protested in front of Uber’s headquarters at 1455 Market Street and marched around the block in the middle of the street.

Uber executives and investors of the money stand to make millions when Uber debuts on the stock market, while drivers are asking the tech company to spread out some of the wealth.

Mostafa Maklad, a driver for four years in San Francisco, said he was making more money when began working for Uber:

“When I started driving for Uber four years, we used to drive around 30 to 40 hours and make about $2,000 for one week. Right now, to make the same amount of money, you have to drive at least 70 to 80 hours.”

Uber drivers get paid a base fare and then the rest of the fare is based on the distance and the length of the ride. Lyft drivers get paid the same way. Rates vary by city.

Rebecca Stack-Martinez, an Uber driver and organizer with Gig Workers Rising, told a crowd of Uber drivers that she received an email from Uber last Christmas that the company had valued her as a driver:

“In the big bold print, it says ‘We’re raising your per minute rate,’ but as soon as you scroll down that email, they said ‘oh, but we’re going to decrease your mileage rate.’”

Stack-Martinez said the letter said that her earnings would remain the same.

She then asked the crowd:

“How’s that working out for you drivers?”

Uber drivers booed in unison as drivers who showed up to protest the company had all received the same letter.

Stack-Martinez continued:

“That’s why we’re here today. Not only because they continuously cut our rates, and we live here in the most expensive city in San Francisco, that they’re going to continue to cut our rates and yet expect us to survive. I don’t care if you do this full-time or part-time, you deserve to be paid fairly.”

An Uber spokesperson responded to Wednesday’s protest:

“Drivers are at the heart of our service─we can’t succeed without them─and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road. Whether it’s more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections or fully-funded four-year degrees for drivers or their families, we’ll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.”

Lyft also responded to driver’s concerns over wages:

“Lyft drivers’ hourly earnings have increased 7 percent over the last two years, and they have earned more than $14 billion since we launched. Over 75 percent drive less than 10 hours a week to supplement existing jobs. On average, Lyft drivers earn over $20 per 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.”

Supervisor Gordon Mar, who introduced a proposal to at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to reinstate a 1.5 percent payroll tax rate on stock-based compensation.

The tax originally had been in place prior to 2012, the Board of Supervisors approved the tax break for the tech sector who had threaten to leave The City at that time.

Mar joined Uber drivers at the rally, and told SFBay:

“We rolled out the red carpet here in San Francisco for the tech sector when they threatened to leave. Now it’s time for them to give back to The City and to the workers that helped create their success.”

The proposal would generate $100 to $200 million over two years and into a “Shared Prosperity Fund” that will help fund affordable housing families, education, youth programs, support for low- and middle-income workers, and small business stabilization, Mar said.

Mar’s proposal will require approval of six members of the Board of Supervisors for placement on the November 2019 ballot.

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