Is it time for a Union for Ride-hailing drivers?
Ride-hailing platforms have unlimited power when it comes to their partner-drivers. They dictate the prices of rides along with the earnings and bonuses of the drivers. For a while now, drivers have been complaining about the undercutting of fares, raising of commissions, and empty promises made for extra bonuses and quests during holidays. In 2019, FreeNow raised its commission rate from 10% to 15%. Earlier this year, Uber raised its commission rate in Germany to a fixed 30%. Partner drivers had little to no power in the decision-making process. Stuck with low wages and barley any control over their livelihoods.
Where's the problem?
Ride-hailing platforms hold all the power in this dynamic. But why? It’s due to the lack of organization among drivers. When it comes to dealing with partner-companies you take your complaints one-on-one by speaking to a representative of the platform, or by filling out a complaint form. Partner-drivers are not united when dealing with general concerns. They don’t have an advocate representing their interests. Inevitably, you are forced to accept all actions by the ride-hailing platforms regarding commission, wages, or bonuses.
How have drivers been reacting?
In the past, ride-hailing drivers have tried resorting to raising their complaints publicly through calls to action, strikes, and even lawsuits. In 2017, the #deleteUber movement took place when Uber called off its surge pricing to attract more riders at airports in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Uber was accused of profiting off of Trump’s order instead of supporting its fellow partner-drivers. Further, In 2019, Uber and Lyft drivers around the world went on strike, protesting over pay and job security. However, in the mid-run the effect of these actions had been close to none. Uber, FreeNow, Lyft, and all other ride-hailing platforms still hold all of the power and continuously take decisions that leave their partner-drivers feeling helpless.
Unions for the future
The occasional strikes and calls to action only provide short-term relief to a long-term problem. This is because drivers only show unity during these events but remain for themselves for the rest of the time. Today, many partner drivers see their fellows rather as competition that colleagues that information should be shared with. This needs to end! Uniting with other partner-drivers over mutual concerns gives your voice more power to be heard. Joining a union enables drivers to show the same amount of power as they have during strikes and calls to action – every day.
Why do drivers need unions?
Joining forces over mutual concerns is always better than facing them individually. Through a union, you will be able to raise your complaints regarding wages, worker benefits, and job security collectively with other drivers. Unions are support groups. They aren’t just there to help you raise complaints, but to help you improve your overall working conditions. Rideshare unions provide drivers with a network where they can share and receive general advice, skills, and information.
Unions already out there - but they're weak
Unity and organization are not easy to achieve. Especially when you are trying to unite and advocate for thousands of drivers out there. Unfortunately, there aren’t many unions out there specifically for ride-hailing drivers. In Germany, some initiatives aim to unite all drivers but face great internal struggle. One being the Bundesverband der Chauffeurwagen-Unternehmer (VLD), which is quite small in size and reach. Another is the Bundesverband Taxi und Mietwagen e.V. (BZP). The BZP strives to provide the necessary support to all ride-hailing drivers. However, conflicts between traditional taxi drivers and drivers of competing ride-hailing platforms have made this goal very difficult to achieve. The new ride-hailing platforms have given traditional taxi drivers a run for their money. Taking at least half of their average amount of riders per hour. The competition between the two groups weakens the union and makes it eventually irrelevant. Without internal unity, drivers cannot present a united front against the ride-hailing platforms.
What options do you have as a ride-hailing driver?
Join the Bliq Community! Connecting with other drivers on the Bliq Ride platform will enable you to communicate and share with other drivers in your city. Getting in touch with fellow drivers is the first step to be stronger together!
Recently, a member of the Berlin group presented a call to action for all ride-hailing drivers working with Uber and FreeNow. The initiative is rapidly developing into a small union of ride-share drivers ready to stand up against the exploitation of Uber and FreeNow drivers. Join Bliq be part of the support group in your city and to stay updated on initiatives taking place in your area.
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