Uber Drivers Protest: ‘Employees’ Demand Raise, But Could Self-Driving Cars Counter This?

Uber drivers are protesting the wage they are being paid in some areas. The average pay for any person behind the wheel of an Uber car is reportedly around $20 per hour, while some drivers in urban areas like Detroit often earn less than $15 for the same time period. This was based on a study in November by Uber employee and shareholder Jonathan Hall and a calculation of the job minus expenses such as gas.

Of course, with the upcoming self-driving car under production and possibly due by 2020, it’s likely that these protests are in vain. Uber may simply begin phasing out humans behind the wheel in favor of experimenting with cars that drive themselves. This would eliminate human error, although technically humans still program the cars, so computer errors are still extensions of human error.

The push for driverless cars has been a real possibility as businesses are pressured to curb carbon emissions and eliminate fuel-based vehicles entirely. Self-driving cars are expected to be purely electronic, cutting down on pollution and improving the environmental impact. Some consumers have even discovered that when faced with minimal traffic, they don’t usually even need to touch the steering wheel.

Once again, human error can be an issue if traffic suddenly confuses the car and someone needs to take the wheel. Uber offers the solution of letting someone else drive for you, but it appears these drivers are not happy with the pay in larger cities.

Buzzfeed News claims that despite reports of some Uber drivers earning $100,000 a year, the average pay per hour after expenses was $13.25. These are clearly different tax brackets, and with recent gas problems in the South, the cost of fuel is very likely stifling. Uber has also cut the costs for customers in favor of competing with taxi companies like Yellow Cab.

Uber driver protests in April have resulted in the company settling over 380,000 class action lawsuits with a payout of over $100 million. The federal courts stepped in and rejected the motion to raise the minimum wage, calling it unfair. Uber does not consider its drivers to be employees despite the hourly rate of pay. The company considers them independent contractors due to the fact that they work whatever hours they wish.

Drivers are demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage and an option to unionize, according to CNET. In order to make their voices heard, they have taken to the airports and malls of major cities with signs saying “Your Uber driver is arriving striking.”

This demonstration is being called the “day of disruption,” the basic equivalent of 2014 Walmart sit-down protests over Black Friday employee regulations.

Adam Shahim of California stated his position and those of others protesting.

“I’d like a fair day’s pay for my hard work. So I’m joining with the fast-food, airport, home care, child care and higher education workers who are leading the way and showing the country how to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the few at the top.”

The way Adam describes it, Uber is taking advantage of the “1 percent” issue. This means that 1 percent of the world controls 99 percent of the wealth, and Adam hopes to see this stop.

The National Employment Law Project’s Rebecca Smith agrees with this.

“The Fight for $15 has become central to reversing the huge gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us. And Uber has become a symbol of the kinds of low-wage, no-benefit jobs that exacerbate that gap.”

Uber drivers might be up against more than just a minimum wage issue, of course, when self-driving cars become more and more mainstream. While the crude oil industry is expected to fight the transition, environmentalists have their hopes high, and the drivers protesting Uber’s pay could only be seeking a temporary solution because of it, even if they win.

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