There is one little downside to all these extended UberX deals NYC customers have been getting lately: the drivers aren't happy. A large group of Uber drivers, under the name Uber Drivers Network NYC, have been protesting the company all week—they've organized to strike this weekend and planned to show up with 1,000+ drivers at Uber's office on Monday. So Uber did something very un-Uber like: they changed policy.
Earlier this summer, UberX—the cheaper alternative to the less "X"-treme Uber—slashed its prices by 20 percent in New York for some unspecified period of time in an effort to steal riders from yellow cabs. The important part of that turned out to be the "unspecified period of time" bit—because the deal has been extended into the fall, drivers say its untenable for them, cutting into their wages and forcing them to work extra hours. SUV and black car drivers never received UberX requests until this summer, but they were promised a 35% to 50% increase in hourly income if they signed up. Suffice it to say, that hasn't happened.
Belal, an organizer and SUV driver, told BuzzFeed that drivers have been put into an untenable position:
According to Belal, he and many other drivers tried this option once or twice and realized they could not make as much as they did in the time they normally would work just being a black car driver exclusively and tried to email and text the company to opt out. But he and other drivers continue to receive UberX requests despite his attempts to return to just being a premium driver.
Now drivers like Belal are not only awarded low rider acceptance rates they are also being temporarily suspended for only choosing to accept SUV or black car requests.
“Uber is basically abusing the driver,” Belal told BuzzFeed News. “They give us a 24 hour suspension and threaten that you will lose your chance with Uber. To get a ride for $8.00, I’ll have to work the whole day. Gas and insurance for SUV’s are expensive. I have to pay $80 to $100 a day in gas.”
To clarify: the minimum fare for UberX rides is $8, the minimum for UberXL is $12, and rides on the higher-end UberBlack and UberSUV start at $15 and $25 respectively. Those last two also have higher base fares and charge riders more per minute and per mile.
As demand for UberX rides has increased in NYC, drivers have found themselves trapped in a loop: "They make us work for UberX permanently because we received tons of UberX calls per minute,” Belal added. "This means we never get the chance to accept black car or SUV cars. We can only pick UberX. It’s a strategy for them to put us to work only for UberX."
While Uber has played hardball with foreign nations, they decided today to compromise with drivers: "Effective immediately, UberBLACK and UberSUV partners can choose when and where to receive UberX requests," the company wrote in an email sent to drivers.
Uber Drivers Network NYC is happy about the change, but undeterred about forcing the company to recognize that drivers are not making enough money because of the deals: "As most of you are already aware, Uber has met one of our demands by stopping to force Black/SUV drivers to take UberX," they said in a post on their Facebook page this afternoon. "This is a victory for us and no one is deserving of being thanked than YOU! However our fight MUST continue, because we've won a battle but the war is not over. To that note, our meeting this evening is still on at FOREST PARK DR WOODHAVEN NY @ 4 PM. And we are still on a NO WORK strike today until our meeting is over."
In the meantime, some drivers are starting to switch to Lyft: "In the beginning Uber was very nice with us. Now when you go to the office they treat you like a slave," Ifram Chaudri, an Uber SUV driver of eight months who had his account suspended for a day this week, told Slate. "When Lyft asked me if I had any questions, I said only one: You will be smiley and nice with us all the time or just for a few months, like Uber?"
Anyway, if you do try to take an Uber or UberX this weekend, hopefully you'll get someone who drives neither angry nor hard.