DC-area strike organizers aren’t expecting great disruptions to Uber, Lyft commutes

Wednesday’s planned strike involving Uber and Lyft drivers around the nation and world isn’t expected to cause great disruptions in the D.C. area, but that could change, and contingency plans are in the works.

Reagan National and Dulles International airports are working with their taxi dispatch teams to have extra taxis available if needed, and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority always encourages travelers to use Metrorail versus ground transportation.

That said, the group trying to organize work stop efforts among local drivers of ride-hailing services doesn’t expect a great number to participate relative to the area’s population.

“We’re expecting dozens of supporters, but it’s really hard to predict,” said Jeff Dugas of Drive United. “There’s been an enormous surge in attention on social media. So, while we’re expecting dozens of supporters — there could be many, many more than that.”

The D.C. area work action is planned between 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday.

An Uber driver who serves mostly Northern Virginia and D.C. said he doesn’t plan to strike because he doesn’t think it will accomplish anything. “I think only regulatory changes can make Uber change the way it does business,” said Luke, who preferred his last name not be published.

If the Wednesday work action does result in large or even moderate numbers of drivers turning off ride-hailing apps, it’ll mean a bonus for drivers who stay on the job.

“If more drivers strike, it technically means there’s more demand and more money for us drivers who don’t strike,” Luke said.

Striking for better pay and work conditions

“Drivers are at the heart of our service — we can’t succeed without them — and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road,” Uber said in a statement. “Whether it’s more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections, or fully-funded four-year degrees for drivers or their families, we’ll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.”

Whatever happens with Wednesday’s work action, a Georgetown University researcher believes the unity of the effort expected in some form or fashion in 17 cities around the world and across the U.S. is significant and can lead to change.

“When we look at the history of labor movements in the U.S., when we look at the history of vulnerable working populations — the only thing that has ever changed their condition has begun with collective worker action,” said Katie Wells, a postdoctoral fellow with Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

“So, I see this action tomorrow as a seed, and a very exciting one for what is to come,” Wells said.

Wells and her team is about halfway through a five-year study on the conditions of Uber drivers.

“Our study suggests that there are good reasons to be concerned about this workplace,” Wells said when preliminary findings were released last month. “If there’s someone you care about, please help them find a different job.”

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