Connecticut rideshare drivers are demanding change from Uber and Lyft.
They formed a 50-car caravan Wednesday and drove to the Legislative Office Building in Hartford to voice their concerns about pay, safety and negotiating power.
Some state lawmakers and Lyft are responding to the issues the drivers are raising.
Dozens of rideshare drivers gathered near Bradley Airport.
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“Without drivers, Uber is just an app,” one rideshare driver said, holding a sign.
They formed a caravan, honking as they drove down I-91 and made a lap around the state capitol. The drivers then moved on the Legislative Office Building where they went inside to speak to state lawmakers with the Transportation and Labor & Public Employees Committees.
The Independent Drivers Guild, which organized the caravan, represents app-based drivers. Their main demand:
“All we want is a fair share,” Zia Rahman, rideshare driver and IDG member, said. “Protect drivers’ income by allowing negotiation, our pay rates and benefits.”
Rideshare driver Abubkar Adam describes the difficulties of low paying trips.
“I cannot just do $2 trip. What I'm going do with a $2 trip? You cannot pay your bill,” he said.
IDG wants to protect drivers’ incomes and rights through negotiating power.
“The biggest thing we are fighting for is a seat at the table. We drivers need the seat at the table so we can negotiate our salary, our benefits, and our safety,” Sohail Rana, IDG deputy director for Connecticut, said.
The drivers say one of their biggest concerns is the discrepancy between what a rider pays and how much they earn.
A rideshare driver named Osman showed an example of one ride he says he saved on the app.
“See how much they offer to the driver?” he said. “Passenger’s also upset too because they pay a lot. So they think we receive too much money. But no, we didn't get this money. $240 customer pays, and Lyft and Uber offers us $50.”
Drivers are concerned that the company is taking a larger portion of their earnings than in years past.
“We pay our gas, we pay our insurance, we fix our car, our mileage, and our time. All we doing is using the app. So we don't see the reason why they are keeping a big chunk of the percentage of the job we do,” Mohammed Sanazifi, rideshare driver, said.
IDG also wants better safety standards.
“They do background check all the drivers,” Osman said. “We don't know who is sitting in the backseat.”
They also want to change the deactivation process. That is when drivers are removed from apps after a complaint.
“They just deactivate, deactivate or fire people, without giving them any due process,” Rana said.
Uber did not return NBC Connecticut’s request for comment.
A spokesperson for Lyft responded to the caravan by providing the following statement on behalf of the rideshare company:
“We care deeply about the safety and concerns of our drivers. That's why we launched a new cohort of our Driver Advisory Council to hear from drivers directly, why we have a robust appeals process in place for when drivers feel they have been unfairly deactivated and why we continue to take action and invest in technology, policies and partnerships to help keep drivers and riders safe. It's also why we introduced Upfront Pay in Connecticut last year, so drivers have more ride and earnings information ahead of accepting any ride they give. We look forward to continuing to engage with lawmakers and our rider and driver communities on these important topics.”
Lyft says last year, it launched Upfront Pay in Connecticut, which allows drivers to see ride and fare information in advance. They say since drivers also earn through incentives and tips, there is no set “take rate.”
A spokesperson says some of the fees collected by Lyft go toward maintaining and growing the business through things like covering insurance costs, background checks and other operational expenses that attract more riders.
The company’s safety technology includes a real-time ride tracking feature, emergency assistance supported by ADT security and a two-way rating and feedback system.
Regarding background and deactivations, Lyft says it takes safety reports from riders and drivers extremely seriously. If a driver disagrees with a course of action taken, such as a deactivation, they can ask for the decision to be reviewed and go through an appeals process.
Senator Julie Kushner, Labor and Public Employees Committee chair (D-Danbury) says there is proposed legislation this session that might address some of the concerns that rideshare drivers have.
“We'll have that somewhere around the beginning of March,” Kushner said. “There will be a public hearing, and it's an opportunity for people to come and talk about these issues.”
State Representative David Michel (D-Stamford) is also considering the issues in the Transportation Committee.
“We want them to have a fair share of the fair,” Michel said. “We need to talk with the drivers and listen to the asks.”
The rideshare drivers in the caravan say they want more support from lawmakers, saying Connecticut could be one of the first states to take legislative actin to address their concerns.
“We have families we need to take care of, and we not we are not being treated equally under this this system,” Sanazifi said. “We are calling everybody out there to help us make this happen and help everybody out, because everybody deserves equal pay.”