Minneapolis Uber drivers are striking May 8 over sub-minimum wages

On average, Uber drivers make less than Minneapolis' minimum wage.

On average, Uber drivers make less than Minneapolis' minimum wage. Associated Press

Find someone else to drive you on May 8. Uber drivers in several cities are participating in a strike that day. Minneapolis is not among those with organized strike efforts, but several drivers are planning on striking anyway in solidarity. 

Participating drivers will simply turn off their apps for 12 hours. The movement is being supported by Gig Workers Rising, a “community of app and platform workers” trying to improve conditions and pay at jobs with companies like Uber, TaskRabbit, and DoorDash. The group didn’t respond to interview requests, but it told the Guardian in no uncertain terms why its 4,000 or so Uber-driving members are going dark next week.

“Uber is paying drivers poverty wages and continues to slash wages while executives make millions,” organizer Shona Clarkson said.

That’s never been starker than it is now. On Friday, the company told the Securities and Exchange Commission it planned to sell 180 million shares for $44 to $50 each, according to Business Insider – a price that could value Uber as high as $90 billion.

Meanwhile, Uber drivers – and Lyft drivers, according to the Guardian – make as little as $8.55 an hour before taxes. That’s higher than the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but a good deal lower than Minneapolis’ minimum of $11.25.

A letter delivered to Uber’s San Francisco headquarters detailed the drivers’ demands. They want higher wages, clearer policies for how wages and tips are shared, health care, and some driver representation in Uber’s management structure. They also want some reassurance that Uber won’t try to cut their pay in order to make the company more attractive to investors. 

Uber responded to interview requests with a statement about the drivers' demands. Drivers have earned "$78.2 billion" since 2015, are eligible for certain "Driver Appreciation Awards," and can voice their opinions at Uber's twice-a-year Driver Advisory Forums. 

Meanwhile, Uber forums in Minneapolis are gathering long strings of comments about the strike, complete with speculation whether fellow riders will “cross the picket lines.” 

The question is whether Uber will listen. The company hasn’t demonstrated much interest in improving working conditions. Since 2016, it has been spending up to $20 million a month developing cars that drive themselves. Internal documents reveal the goal of having driverless service in 13 cities by 2022.

But it seems like Uber will have to find a way to work with humans for at least a little longer than that. After an autonomous vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, allowing driverless vehicles to rule to road may be further away than the company thinks.