The strikes are expected to occur over large US cities, as well as parts of the UK, Australia and South America. Participating drivers say they intend to send a message to Uber and its rivals: They want viable revenue, job security, and regulated prices, including requirements.
In San Diego and Los Angeles, drivers have stopped working for 24 hours. In Atlanta, workers are planning to log off riding company programs for 12 hours. And in New York City, a two-hour strike is scheduled from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM, which is busy commuting hours.
In addition to turning off their apps, drivers will keep rallies in strategic locations, such as outside of local Uber offices.
The same group planted the seed for Wednesday's protest, and many more local working groups have announced similar strikes in solidarity. It is expected to be the largest internationally coordinated effort against the current companies to date.
Why drivers are striking
Both Uber and Lyft have built their businesses at the back of the drivers. Like other gig economy companies, the two have long argued that their drivers are independent contractors. That status means that employees do not receive the same rights as employees, such as minimum wages, overtime, work compensation, unemployment insurance, paid sick leave or work expenses. Both companies have stated that their businesses will be "negatively affected" if drivers were classified as employees instead of contractors.
At the same time, the competition between the two, as well as the smaller companies, intended to engage in price scales. Uber and Lift bleed money, and how much drivers do is the biggest cost they can control.
"With IPO, Uber's business owners are set to make billions, while drivers are left in poverty and go bankrupt," said Bhairavi Desai, CEO of New York's Taxi Workers Alliance, one of the organizations calling for drivers to strike. in a statement.
Why strikes happen now
The protests have been purposefully scheduled to take place just before Uber's anticipated debate on public trading on Friday – one of the greatest moments in the company's ten-year history .
Uber has become a household name, and the most valuable private startup in the United States, after raising outstanding venture capital. It embraced a growth-to-all mindset, even when it meant questionable ethical means, including dodging regulators.
After cofounder and CEO Travis Kalanick was withdrawn from the company in June 2017 after a number of PR crises, and the company's board dropped Dara Khosrowshahi, then head of Expedia, to correct and publicize the company. Now Khosrowshahi will be retained to Wall Street's pressure to build a sustainable business. A big variable he and the company will continue to intervene on that path: its drivers.
Although drivers have tried to form a union, independent contractors are not covered by the same organization protections as employees in terms of labor laws.
Arun Sundararajan, professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, told CNN Business that the strikes will be an interesting test of the strength of the driver groups. "Are they actually most of the drivers?" he said. "As the freelance workers' collections evolve, they must come up with ways to induce participation by offering compensation."
What It Means For Uber
The company's ability to attract and retain drivers will continue to be important if they want to keep their customers happy with fast timers.
Sundararajan said he does not expect the strike in front of the IPO to reduce investor needs. Most investors, he suggests, are already aware of the ongoing issues between Uber and its drivers.
However, the problem may worsen after Uber investors and executives convert their wealth into paper status into rich-in-real-world when the company goes public. Workers will continue to face an uncertain future, while Wall Street is sure to carefully examine driver costs.
At present, it is unclear how many drivers will participate in the strikes, which are largely planned and encouraged by local communities and working groups. Uber alone counted 3.9 million drivers around the world at the end of last year. What is clear is that this may be the biggest driver protest in the US yet, and a sign of what lies ahead of the business.