On July 2, Rideshare Drivers United emailed drivers in Los Angeles about a ‘flash protest’ at the Lyft Drivers Hub in downtown LA. The protest was against changes to Lyft Prime Time (from Prime Time to Personal Power Zones). RSG contributor Sergio Avedian attended the LA protest and shares his thoughts about the protest and its impact on Lyft below.
About a week ago I received the following email from RDU (Rideshare Drivers United). I had signed up as a member of this group a while back and periodically they send out notices of upcoming events such as the twenty-four hour Uber driver strike that took place in Los Angeles and many other cities across the U.S. on May 8, 2019.
Lyft took away PT (Prime Time) in Los Angeles in April of 2019 and phased in something called PPZ (Personal Power Zones). After doing extensive research, we published my findings and analysis of the switch from Lyft Prime Time to Personal Power Zones here.
Yesterday’s event was organized to protest PPZ, which most drivers consider a scam, another pay cut – and I agree. In my previous article on PPZ (above), I called PPZ a hybrid game of Pokemon Go and Wheel of Fortune! How they thought of this as a replacement for PT (Prime Time) is a mystery, but as everything else Lyft does, it is a constant game of bait and switch.
The Lyft PPZ Protest
I showed up an hour early since the Lyft hub is located in an industrial part of downtown Los Angeles where finding a legal parking spot is always a challenge. I have no idea why Lyft chose this location as their main hub but I guess they are keeping an eye on their expenses.
After finding a great spot to park, I proceeded to walk to the site of the protest. There were only a couple of organizers in RDU t-shirts, getting their signs ready for the arrival of additional drivers. When the clock ticked noon, the official start of the event, there were only a handful of drivers participating in this flash protest but more showed up later.
I talked to many of the individuals that were there – I listened to their horror stories, from unjust deactivations, to how they are horribly underpaid, underappreciated and cheated by PPZ. I witnessed a lot of the screenshots they took of their passenger receipts where Lyft’s effective commission (total take rate) exceeded 60% sometimes 70%. That is the difference between what the passenger pays and the driver receives. We covered how Lyft has changed the driver pay structure, and basically PPZ has basically given Lyft the green light to still charge riders prime time fares but pay drivers bonuses as low as $1.50 per ride.
This event was labeled as a flash protest, unlike the twenty-four hour strike that took place on May 8 for which the turnout was into the hundreds of attendees at various parts of Los Angeles (LAX Terminals, Uber hub in Redondo Beach) I certainly can understand the low turnout due to the Lyft hub location and the short notice. However, RDU’s intent was to speak against PPZ immediately after it was implemented in Los Angeles. Their goal is to show that for every move Lyft makes, there will be a counter move and drivers are not going take negative changes in stride without having their voices heard. I say mission accomplished.
About an hour into the protest, a few more drivers showed up. They were all holding signs up and their voices got louder. They were all acknowledged by passing cars and trucks honking their horns. The signs read, “Bring Prime Time Back”, “Support AB5” and “PPZ is a Scam”, and I agree pretty much with all of them.
Nicole Moore (Spokesperson for RDU) & the Media Shows Up
On a recent podcast episode, Harry interviewed Nicole Moore of Rideshare Drivers United (RDU), which aired the same day as the protest. Coincidence? Knowing Harry, I doubt it! She spoke very eloquently of the driver’s plight all over the country, and specifically in CA. I had a long conversation with her after she fulfilled her media obligations (L.A. Times, NBC 4 & Telemundo). She came across as very sincere, knowledgeable about unionizing and committed to being an advocate for drivers everywhere.
I think RDU is going at this the right way; they have a grassroots campaign in signing drivers up, their numbers have grown from a few hundred to 5000 strong in a short period of time. They are run by an active driver volunteer committee of 20 and they are in full support of AB5, the law passed by the CA house of representatives in an overwhelming majority.
Look Forward to More Driver Protests
As I spoke to many drivers, they all have the same common complaints. Low pay, unjust deactivations, disappearing PDB (Power Driver Bonus), elimination of PT (Prime Time) etc. As an active driver on both platforms, I know exactly where they are coming from.
Protests and strikes can only go so far, but it is tough to organize them in a fragmented market as you can see from the images above. To slow the Uber and Lyft steamroller, we must come together with one purpose, with one voice. If AB5 is going to be a deterrent and force Uber and Lyft to the bargaining table, so be it. Bring it on!
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-Sergio @ RSG