SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — If you’re planning to hail a ride with Uber to Super Bowl 50, you may be out of luck.
Some drivers say they’ll be boycotting the big game to protest unfair treatment, mainly a new round of fare cuts that they say doesn’t allow them to make a livable wage.
“People don’t realize how difficult it is to drive even an 8-or-10 hour day, much less a 15 or 16 hour day,” said Uber driver Marc Borgens.
That’s how many hours he says he has to put in just to make ends meet.
“I could be out there driving tired. I could feasibly hurt and or kill somebody,” he said.
A price war between rideshare companies has dropped fares to less than half what they were two years ago, forcing many drivers to work twice as much. They say it’s putting them and their passengers at risk.
KPIX 5 talked to a group of Uber and Lyft drivers who said they all drive over 10 hours a day. some, like Angelica, as many as 18 hours. She says she gets so tired, she sometimes has to sleep in her car. So does Uber driver Joe.
“I would drive from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., take a nap for about 2-3 hours, and I would start again at 4 or 5 a.m. until 10-11 a.m.,” said Joe.
Kelsey, a former truck driver, says he signed on with Lyft for a better quality of life, never dreaming it would come to this.
“Commercial drivers are allowed to drive 11 hours per day with a 30-minute break, mandatory,” said Kelsey. “It’s all done on computer; it’s tracked. We have zero tracking. There is zero accountability.”
Drivers told KPIX 5 they would work long hours if it paid, but at the current rates, it doesn’t. We did the math.
Take Angelica’s 18-hour day. That’s 18 hours with passengers in the car. She says on that day she was actually logged on and driving for Uber 24 hours.
Gross pay: just over $500. ($506.58).
Uber takes 20 percent ($506.58 – $101.32 = $405.26)
Subtract gas and wear and tear, which is covered by driver (250 miles x $.5750= $143.75; $405.26 – $143.75 = $261.51)
Divide that by 24 hours, and it comes out just under $11 an hour. ($10.89)
And that’s when Uber fares were twice as high.
“There’s not much left. It’s not worth the wear and tear on my body, let alone the vehicle,” said Angelica.
Then there’s Kimberly. She says at first Uber’s flexible hours worked great.
“I work full time. I have kids. Before I could drive 2-3 nights a week and make $300 to $400. Now, driving the same hours, I can barely make that much a month,” she said.
That’s not even enough to pay for the brand new SUV that she says Uber talked her into leasing.
“There is absolutely no way an Uber driver is making minimum wage and, for me, that is violating the law,” Kimberly said.
But Stanford labor law Professor Emeritus William Gould says technically that is not the case.
“Because they are not regarded as employees, they have no protection whatsoever,” Gould explained. Uber and Lyft consider drivers contract workers and as such, they are not guaranteed certain workers’ rights.
“What you don’t get is the minimum wage. You don’t get compensation or protection in connection with overtime,” said Gould. “You don’t get unemployment compensation, you don’t get protection against discrimination. As for working such long hours, in the 21st century, this is unconscionable to have employees work under such severe circumstances.”
Both Lyft and Uber turned down KPIX 5’s requests for interviews. Uber instead suggested we talk to a happy driver.
Kindred Sheppard admitted he has taken a 10-to-15 percent income cut. But he said there are advantages to so many drivers quitting.
“You have an increase in demand called surge, because there are more requests than drivers,” said Sheppard. “So it kind of ends up a wash.”
He says he’s hanging in for now. But other drivers argue the math doesn’t add up.
As far as the reasons behind the lower rates, Uber told KPIX 5 that it cut rates to increase demand. They allowed that if ridership doesn’t go up, it will roll back the price cuts. Lyft said it cut rates to keep competitive with Uber.