Hear those horns in downtown Seattle? It’s the sound of angry UberX drivers fed up with the way they’re being paid.
The frustrated contractors are gathering outside of Uber’s Seattle office at Smith Tower for a rather loud protest. They are part of a new group called Seattle Ride-Share Drivers Association that met on Wednesday to discuss a recent price reduction Uber has implemented that they claim has lowered their salary.
“Uber needs to engage with us now,” association board member Jamal Ahmed told GeekWire this afternoon.
Wow, big Uber protest going on right now in downtown Seattle. pic.twitter.com/eBwFAVnC7P
— David Rosenthal (@djrosent) August 29, 2014
— Steven Johnson (@steveTjohnson) August 29, 2014
— Ale Butrón (@lunale11) August 29, 2014
Here’s a statement from Uber in regard to today’s protest:
“Uber offers individuals the freedom, economic opportunity and flexibility to start their own businesses. We remain committed to helping the thousands of Seattle driver partners grow their small businesses.”
Back in June, Uber lowered prices for UberX customers by 20 percent. For two months, the company continued paying its drivers — who earn 80 percent of each fare — as if the discount had not been implemented.
But earlier this month, Uber shifted the discount over to drivers, who are now making less money per ride.
“All drivers of the association believe in Uber and want the company to succeed and continue to offer a valuable service to the public,” the association wrote in a statement this week. “The Association is concerned that this will not happen unless Uber pays their drivers what they were originally paid.”
Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger said that even though UberX drivers are making less money per ride, they are earning more total income than ever. Here was her response to the complaints:
Uber’s goal is to ensure strong driver partner earnings and offer the best value to riders. From the summer promotion, we have learned that a 20 percent price cut will keep demand at record levels, with driver earnings equal or higher than May peaks. We have seen similar effects in other cities where lower rates increase trips and increase driver earnings. Drivers are making MORE money now due to demand than they did before the price cut. Uber partner drivers have a direct line into the Uber team and we will continue to work with them individually to ensure their small businesses thrive.
The Seattle Ride-Share Drivers Association, which has 500 members, said Uber’s claim that its drivers are making more overall income is “unfounded.” It noted how some drivers, when expenses are accounted for, are actually now losing money when accepting a ride.
“No sensible person would stop working if he or she is making more money,” Ahmed told GeekWire on Wednesday.
Uber has been slashing rates for several months as it continues to engage in a price war with companies like Lyft and Sidecar. The San Francisco-based company, which has raised $1.5 billion and is now in 205 cities worldwide, made headlines earlier this week for its questionable recruiting tactics in what was yet another example of how competitive this relatively new transportation market has become.
The association plans to continue reaching more UberX drivers.
“This will not stop until we have reached out to every driver out there, or Uber agrees to meet with us as partners,” Ahmed said. “All they have done is ignore every request for dialogue.”
Friday’s protests have convinced at least one UberX customer to switch to Lyft:
Thanks to the @Uber protest outside my office downtown Seattle, I'm switching to Lyft from now on. Stop honking.
— Syzlak (@Syzlak) August 29, 2014
And another who now thinks lesser of Uber:
Funny enough, last year Seattle saw a similar horn-honking protest — only it was from taxi drivers fed up with the city, not drivers from Uber.
Here’s a video from Wednesday’s association meeting, which features drivers complaining about Uber’s recent changes: