Building Driver Power

To win against multi-billion dollar companies—what does driver power look like?

Spring 2023

Building Driver Power

To win against multi-billion dollar companies,
what does driver power look like?

By Nicole Moore, RDU President, Driver-Los Angeles

Rideshare Drivers United (RDU) is an organization that was founded by drivers, is run by drivers, and is united for the good of drivers. There have been some challenges and some celebrations throughout this journey, and there’s one thing that is undeniable: when we are united, we have power. 

We have seen that money has power. And the companies have a lot of money. But as RDU grows - in numbers, in unity, and in action - we build power that can actually push them into providing us with much better pay, labor protections, and up-front transparency. We’ve seen it work again and again.

Evidence of our power can be seen in our short history with strong actions leading to big changes: 

  • Our strikes in 2019 resulted in the passage of AB5 that gave us full labor rights, 


  • 5,000 drivers filed wage theft claims for $1.3 billion that motivated the state of California to sue both companies on behalf of ALL California drivers, and we wait for that settlement that is still in the courts!


  • Our demand for driver safety resulted in CalOSHA filing charges against both companies for violating our health and safety, 


  • As the state sets requirements that all rideshare drivers be in electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030, our voices as RDU members have resulted in the state considering incentives that will directly benefit drivers (cash for new cars, chargers, etc), instead of giving that money to the companies

None of this could have been done with the 40 or so drivers who first protested in the LAX parking lot five years ago. Now we are over 20,000 drivers in California. What we’ve built has been powerful - that’s driver power - and it’s because of people getting involved, taking action, paying dues as members, and growing the organization. We are creating our own union, Rideshare Drivers United, and we are fighting for drivers because we are drivers.

We’ve seen real driver power in a number of other places. On their third strike in as many months, more than 5,000 Uber & Lyft drivers from NYC, members of the NY Taxi Workers Alliance, struck LaGuardia airport by refusing to pick up or drop off passengers. Days later, drivers secured their 9% raise. In NYC drivers have the support of a strong regulatory infrastructure that sets rules that the industry has to follow to operate in the City.

The fight is for higher pay, a real voice, and full labor rights

We may have different motivations for driving: from providing for families to saving for a vacation to paying down student debt. But we have a lot in common: we are human, our voices should be heard, and WE MATTER! Whether we drive full-time, part-time, or occasionally, we can use our common ground to raise a united voice. Together, we must prepare to fight for our lives and livelihoods.

Some drivers question RDU and the push for full labor rights (sometimes called “employee rights”). They question why we wouldn’t want to preserve our independence.


I wish we did have independence to preserve! The companies set our rates which keep going lower and lower even as our expenses keep going up and up. Algorithms (ai) are written to control what we earn, when we can earn, and where we can earn; it's a computer code that’s in control of drivers. The boss of the future–no face, no name, no compassion.

With this level of digital control, we are hardly “independent contractors” with the freedom to build a business of our own (with an actual customer base that calls us when they need transportation, refers their friends, and pays reasonable fares because we give them excellent service).

Most courts are agreeing; with this level of control, app-based drivers deserve the rights every other worker receives. Courts are saying these companies are just creating loopholes for themselves because with employees misclassified as independent contractors, they can pay us less and not pay into government safety nets that protect workers–when drivers get injured on the job (workers’ comp), when drivers get deactivated/terminated without cause (unemployment insurance), and unlike every other California business, these companies get out of paying into our social security and medicare.

All of this “savings” gives them an unfair competitive advantage because they aren’t even subject to these operating expenses or the associated regulations and oversight.

Preparing to fight

Drivers have reached a breaking point over stolen pay, unfair deactivations, no security if the car breaks down or they happen to get sick. Promises made during the Prop 22 campaign have turned out to be false. 

To fight back, we must strengthen and grow our power. To grow power, we must listen to and recruit new drivers. We must be willing to plead our case with lawmakers, activist groups, voters, and riders. When enough drivers stand up and take action, our power grows. That is DRIVER POWER and it’s what moves the companies toward change.

The fight is bigger than just the  fair pay and safe/healthy working conditions drivers deserve; we can use driver power to stop large corporations from buying laws that are written to feed their hungry bank accounts–at the expense of labor rights that workers have had to fight for–over decades.

So we’ll fight, and we’ll fight together.

We will continue to build driver power and we won’t give in.

We will continue fighting until we win. 



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