Declining Pay
and Increasing Disparity

Together, We Refuse To Let Them Take Our Dignity

By Dominique Smith, RDU Board Member, Bay Area Uber and Delivery Driver 
and Erica Raviart, RDU Board Member, Bay Area Part-Time Lyft and Uber Driver

I just paid $285 out-of-pocket to replace a damaged windshield for a car I am renting for $300/wk that doesn't cover glass damage. 

A personal loan that I was hoping would finance a car to get me out of this predatory rental trap was denied because I live with friends and family and have no permanent address that I can verify with physical mail/bills in my name. 


I refuse to accept defeat as the world promises one thing and instead makes it very clear that if you're trying to crawl out of the gutter there will be no helping hand given, no ladder extended down to allow us a reprieve from the incongruities baked into our economic system. No, the powers that be seem to want us to fail. They want us to toil and be thankful for “the opportunity” while we live out of a car which, for some of us, we don't even own. 


I refuse; more than just for myself because I have hope in our collective strength. Together we have the strength to deny these gig companies any legal right to exploit us and deprive us the dignity we deserve. Prop 22 legally deprives generations of workers from ever achieving a thriving existence in an increasingly inequitable world. 


Gig companies have seen fit to offload the risk and cost of doing business onto the drivers themselves. They’ve placed algorithms as supervisors to manage our behavior and provided equally blue collar phone support agents to be the barrier between our grievances and the companies.  


These same companies arbitrarily set our rates and mislead the general public concerning our well being. They stretch out our days and punitively throttle our rides behind a wall of proprietary copyright. They make non-negotiable changes to “the terms of use” that affect insurance, dispute handling, earnings, risks, etc. 


They withhold data about what passengers pay, how many miles we drive on the clock, and a breakdown of the fees they withhold from our payment. This final bit is the most egregious: I ask the gig companies, with the utmost sincerity, "What is it that you hide behind the veil of obfuscation, and hidden details? Behind the millions of dollars in lobbying and marketing? What is it about your algorithm, your proprietary software, that requires a lack of transparency?"


Our lives mean so much more; more than days spent without the comfort of friends and family; so much more than underpaid wages and the fear of poverty. We are faced with destitution, bodily harm and loss to our own sanity on a near-daily basis. Our lives are worth more than any shareholder investment or the salary of any CEO. Each and every one of our lives is worth more than the entirety of wealth the gig companies post in profits every quarter as we teeter on the verge of homelessness, and lose the better parts of our lives.


I truly believe that we live in an era reminiscent of days without labor protections, and we have come full circle. The entrenched well-to-do are misdirected and well paid while the working masses have slipped into an unending cycle of precarity that fuels an economy being built on the certainty of our indebted future–slavery by any other name. 


The gig companies deny that this reality exists; as they dance with champagne in hand upon our “manufactured state of desperation.” adamantly claiming this is our own doing. As I've said above I shall say here once more: I refuse, hand in hand together with you, I refuse to accept defeat. We will fight together until we win!


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