CHICAGO — Uber drivers around the world are logging out of the company's app to protest its compensation policies ahead of a blockbuster public offering.
Strikes were scheduled for Wednesday in major U.S. cities, as well as parts of the United Kingdom, Australia and South America. The message from participants: Uber needs to offer its drivers job security and higher wages.
Uber and its rival Lyft have long argued their drivers are independent contractors. That status means workers in many countries don't get the same rights as employees.
"Drivers are at the heart of our service — we can't succeed without them," Uber said in a statement.
"Whether it's more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections or fully-funded four-year degrees for drivers or their families, we'll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers," it added.
A 24-hour protest was scheduled for 3 p.m. in Chicago in the Loop. The organizer at Chicago Rideshare Advocates anticipated about 100 protestors at City Hall.
If the airport’s estimates are correct, Chicago O’Hare International Airport sees about 650,000 ride-shares a month. Drivers hope the roadside ground stop will get Lyft and Uber’s attention. They also hope to get the attention of Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, who voiced favor for ride-share regulation during the election season.
Protestors are asking drivers to hit the brakes for the day, shut off their ride-share apps in solidarity and make the companies, not to mention the customers, pay in a whole new way.
Over 100,000 ride-share drivers are registered with the City of Chicago.
The strike action kicked off in London at 7 a.m. local time and will last until 4 p.m., according to James Farrar, a spokesperson for the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which advocates for people working in the gig economy.
Other cities are expected to join the protests. Drivers are pushing for better treatment and improved conditions, but the specific demands vary by organizing group.
In San Diego and Los Angeles, drivers are slated to cease working for 24 hours. In Atlanta, workers plan to log off for 12 hours. And in New York City, a two-hour strike was planned for the morning commute.
In addition to powering off their apps, drivers will hold rallies held in strategic locations such as outside local Uber offices.