Most of the Uber and Lyft rideshare workers are immigrants and people of color who live in constant fear of being fired by the “deactivation” app that throws them out of a job overnight with no explanation. according to a survey of 810 California drivers.
The deactivation has sparked a crisis of unfair and arbitrary dismissals that adds to concerns about the lack of basic protections in the workplace, and also because an analysis by the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) and Rideshare Drivers United (RDU) carried out at The survey found that Uber and Lyft pay a typical California driver just $6.20 an hour.
The survey is the first to ask California app drivers, including drivers who speak Arabic, Chinese and Spanish, about their experiences with disabling, discrimination and safety.
“I have been discriminated against for speaking English with an accent. Most of the passengers understand me and are respectful, but some people act violent or aggressive because of it. Some have filed false reports about me,” said Eduardo Romero, who lives in Los Angeles and has driven for Uber and Lyft for 5 1/2 years.
“The system is against us. We have no basic rights or protections.”
Two thirds of drivers are deactivated
Despite corporate claims that they have equitable and inclusive workplaces, two-thirds of all drivers surveyed experienced permanent or temporary deactivation, with drivers of color and immigrants disproportionately affected.
Of the drivers surveyed who experienced permanent or temporary deactivation, 81% said that driving with the Uber and Lyft apps was their main source of income, and 18% lost their car as a result; and 12%, their home after deactivation.
“We pay our own gas, we fix our cars, insurance, tires and much more. We take on all these costs to keep corporations like Uber and Lyft running, but they don't match that commitment to essential workers in this industry,” said Mr. Chen, who lives in San Jose and has driven for Uber and Lyft since 2017, and He asked not to reveal his full name.
“Once a customer left his phone in my car. I had to stop my job and go back to return it, but they filed a false report alleging blackmail. Even after offering a video from my dashcam to prove this was wrong, Lyft permanently deactivated me. I lost tens of thousands of dollars that I invested in a new, bigger car so I could drive for Lyft.
As the report details, a key part of corporations' algorithmic control relies on user-generated rating systems that are infected by customer bias and discrimination.
Drivers claim that if their customers' rating falls below an unpublished threshold, they can be summarily deactivated.
Even if a driver has a track record of thousands of trips and near-perfect customer ratings, a single complaint, even if based on false or unsubstantiated customer claims, can result in a driver being deactivated.
Nearly half of all drivers who experienced some form of identity discrimination reported that the customer gave them a low rating.
50% of drivers who reported racial bias or discrimination by a customer said the customer also filed a complaint against them
“I have been exposed to covid from passengers who said they were positive and told me after the trip was already in progress. Customers have been racist, vandalized my car and harassed me,” said Ms. Mimi, who has been a driver for three years and lives and raises four children in Los Angeles, also declining to reveal her true identity.
He commented that he tried to get Uber to investigate these situations, but they never did.
“False customer reports about me were taken at face value, and I had no way of demonstrating how passenger bias could have led to a false complaint. Our isolation makes it easier for Uber and Lyft to evade responsibility while risking our livelihood no matter what we do.”
exposed to abuse
Sam Ahmed of Oakland said that six months after he started driving for Uber, a customer said abusive and xenophobic things to him.
“The next morning, I was permanently deactivated and Uber told me there was nothing I could do to get my job back,” said Sam, who now drives for Lyft under a pseudonym.
Sam immigrated from Yemen with my wife and their two children.
“We fled from a civil war and a devastating famine. To support my family, I now work 50-60 hour weeks for Lyft without health insurance or benefits. I still experience discrimination and harassment and worry every day that it will lead to another deactivation.”
- 69% of drivers of color experience some form of deactivation compared to 57% of those who identified as white.
- 86% of non-English speaking drivers and 78% of limited English proficient drivers reported experiencing some form of deactivation, compared to 61% of English-dominant drivers.
- 30% of disabled drivers were given no reason by Uber and Lyft.
- 43% of surveyed drivers reported experiencing sexual harassment at work.
- One in 4 workers received a low customer rating when asked to comply with the mask rule.
- 45% of all drivers believe that customer discrimination led to their deactivation.
Nicole Moore, president of Rideshare Drivers United, said Uber and Lyft often respond that they have an appeals process for deactivation, but to get it done, drivers have to tirelessly call, email and visit their offices.
“For those who don't speak English, there is no direct route. It's an exercise in wearing people down until they give up.”
In the report, ALC and RDU shared the following recommendations so that drivers can have protections against discrimination, harassment, violence and insecurity caused by dismissals based on algorithms.
- Provide just cause and due process for deactivated drivers by establishing a clear and transparent policy and fair and timely hearing procedures that are easily accessible to drivers.
- Address customer bias and discrimination against drivers by conducting transparent investigations and removing financial incentives for customers to file meritless complaints.
- Provide drivers with all of the basic job protections afforded to workers classified as employees.
- Protect drivers from violence and sexual harassment in the workplace by instituting safety measures in consultation with drivers and in accordance with state and federal health and safety regulations.
- Ammad Rafiki of the LAC workers' rights program said drivers' workplaces, their cars, are only safe if everyone in them is safe.
At the end of the day, it's the responsibility of corporations like Uber and Lyft to protect both the people who work for them and their customers, and they're not exempt from California's health and safety protections.