Uber drivers protested around the world on Wednesday. It was a spiritual, but largely unquantifiable, demonstration against what they see as scandalously low wages, poor job security and an unacceptable lack of benefits.
Above all, it was a rally creep against the expanding bay between your life and the lives of those who become unimaginably rich when Uber makes its stock exchange debut on Friday.
"I have no problem with the company making money," said Eddie Wheeler, a Uber driver for almost three years.
"What I'm having trouble is the way they did it. They made the value of my back and the back of every driver."
People like Mr Wheeler have little collective power. They can't reconcile, though there are some emerging groups trying to help represent the needs of "gig workers", albeit without real place on the negotiating table. The effect of this kind of action is also held back by the actual problem they are struggling with: many drivers simply cannot afford to take the time to join.
Nevertheless, drivers do what they can to make their voices heard. In addition to those who protest personally on Wednesday, several more said they planned to contribute by turning off their apps for some time ̵
But a source at Uber told me that the impact has been small. In New York, fewer than 1% of drivers who usually drive on Wednesdays are turned off – and we have no way of knowing if it was part of the protest. To a greater extent, in all the participating cities, Uber did not see any meaningful effect on its service – there were no noticeable increases in waiting times, or cases of surveillance prices (where the dangers rise because there are fewer drivers available).
Waste of time, then? Perhaps – it's probably hard for drivers to be enthusiastic about their chances of getting better terms from Uber, as a brand new move by keen shareholders on Friday will push the company to reverse its huge losses.
No one from Uber recorded protests in San Francisco, or at any of the other locations globally. In a statement, the firm – and its main competitor, Lyft – said that there were always ways to improve relationships with their workers.
Drivers at the protest said they had reached the breakpoint and feel that Uber should ignore their concerns.
"It's not viable," said Annette Rivero, a driver for two years. She said she runs 12-14 hours a day.
"The time we are entering is dangerous, it is too many hours to be out on the road."
These concerns can find these drivers another audience that can help: the government. On the presidential campaign track, most Democratic candidates have supported an expansion of the US Labor Force, first written in 1935, to include additional protection for concert economists.
Changes in the law can have a dramatic, perhaps fatal, effect on businesses like Uber. Having to pay more or offer benefits to workers would certainly question the company's expected value of $ 90 billion.
When I asked driver Jeff Perry about this, he saw. If the company can't afford to pay their workers, he argued, it shouldn't be worth anything at all.
"It's totally mad," he said.
"How is it possible? This is Silicon Valley's nonsense mat."
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