The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the economic vulnerability of Uber and Lyft drivers in our community.
By Ahmed Mohamed Mahamud
As chairman of the Somali American Drivers Association and a member of the Drivers Union Leadership Committee https://www.driversunionwa.org/stand_with_drivers?splash=1 , I see first-hand the impact on the driver community. Drivers come from East Africa and other immigrant communities all over the world. We work hard to provide for our families.
Even before the pandemic, 58% of us couldn’t afford a $400 emergency expense, according to a report from the Federal Reserve. That’s because for years Uber and Lyft have been cutting driver pay, while taking more from what our customers are charged. At the same time, the cost of living in our region keeps going up, making it harder and harder to make ends meet. The need to combat this racial inequity has never been more urgent than it is now for Black and brown immigrant drivers who are on the front lines of both the economic and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responding to this need, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has announced a plan to raise driver pay. Mayor Durkan’s Fare Share Plan would raise driver pay by 30%. The plan would triple per-minute pay, stop cuts to per-mile pay, and include yearly cost of living increases. It’s an important step towards fairness, but more is needed. City Council should build on the plan to ensure transparency and living wage protections that benefit both riders and drivers.
Drivers Union has launched a petition https://www.driversunionwa.org/fair_pay_now to raise our demands, and we invite everyone to join us in standing up for the driver community. But, while drivers are organizing for fairness, Uber and Lyft are spreading misinformation and fear tactics to try to stop a driver pay raise.
So we must remember the famous teaching of Frederick Douglas – “power concedes nothing without a demand.” It was because of drivers coming together and organizing through Drivers Union that Fair Pay was put back on the agenda at City Hall. And it will be driver and community unity that wins the fight.