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An Industry Built on Exploitation


As it turns out, when you build an industry on labor exploitation such as Uber and Lyft did, especially in the guise of the “gig worker,” which actually means “no rights and all the responsibilities,” those workers are going to make other choices when they can. And they are doing so right now.

“Drivers are in a low-key strike,” Nicole Moore, a volunteer organizer with Rideshare Drivers United, told CNBC.

“Right now it’s a mini debacle for Uber and Lyft in terms of driver shortages and surge pricing throughout the US,” Wedbush’s Dan Ives said in an email. “Drivers are ~40% below capacity.”

Former ride-sharing drivers are staying off the road for a variety of reasons.

For many it’s fear of the continued pandemic, which is what made them stop driving in the first place. Currently, less than 50% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This thing is not over yet, people can still get sick,” Louis Wu, a Texas resident and former rideshare driver, told CNBC. According to Uber, 80% of drivers planned to come back once vaccinated. The company has also heavily invested resources into getting people vaccinated, offering free rides to vaccine spots through early July, as a part of its effort to get people back on the road.

Others, wanting to stay in the gig economy but fearful of transmission, have switched to food or grocery delivery. That’s also allowed them to put less wear-and-tear on their cars, especially as gas prices and car parts prices increase.

“In times of Covid, there’s a lot less customer interaction with food delivery vs transporting a passenger in your backseat,” Harry Campbell, who runs The Rideshare Guy blog, said in an email. “You also put less miles on your car as a delivery driver since people order from nearby restaurants vs a full-time ride-hail driver that can easily do 1,000 miles per week or more. A lot of ride-hail drivers just get tired of dealing with people too.”

It’s almost as if the gig economy is not the utopian future promised by techbros!

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