So-called ‘ridesharing’ · Drivers

So-called ‘ridesharing’


Fig. 1. Yeah, this is me. The sign says, “If you’re whining about a labor shortage, STOP ignoring my job applications!” And the QR-code leads here. Photograph by author, January 16, 2023.

Fig. 2. “Clarkdale Classic Gas Station, Clarkdale, Arizona,” Photograph by Alan Levine, October 28, 2016, via Wikimedia Commons, CC0.

Fig. 3. Uber driver Boubacar Sow drives in New York. Photograph by Kevin Hagan via the Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019,[1] fair use.

Uber and Lyft compete to exploit and abuse the desperate and the stupid. I realize that makes them think they are good capitalists. But the worst imagery of Hell would be of far too kind a place.

What’s happening here is that Uber and Lyft offload business risk onto people who can’t afford it, misclassifies them as “independent contractors,” and denies them the protections, benefits, and minimum wage that employees are entitled to. Meanwhile, both companies claim to be investing in attracting drivers,[2] but their results come very much at drivers’ expense, particularly as Uber claims to have gained drivers as a consequence of inflation,[3] and then pays them next to nothing. That’s exploitation.

Fig. 4. Screenshot of direct message sent to Uber Support by author, December 15, 2022.

When finally we consider the discrepancy in how the companies treat drivers and passengers when one complains against the other, with drivers’ livelihoods routinely threatened[4] but nothing at all, as near as I can tell, done to passengers (figure 4), we see abuse.

If you have any intelligence at all, you will not voluntarily drive for these companies. I have done so only because I have been desperate.[5]

See also:

Sheldon Ingram, “Pittsburgh Uber drivers to launch Valentine’s weekend strike,” WTAE, February 11, 2016,

Caroline O’Donovan and Jeremy Singer-Vine, “Uber Data And Leaked Docs Provide A Look At How Much Uber Drivers Make,” Buzzfeed, June 22, 2016,

Sam Levin, “Uber drivers often make below minimum wage, report finds,” Guardian, March 5, 2018,

Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018,

Angela Moscaritolo, “Lyft Drivers Now Subject to Continuous Background Checks,” PC, April 15, 2019,

Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019,

Farhad Manjoo, “The Uber I.P.O. Is a Moral Stain on Silicon Valley,” New York Times, May 1, 2019,

Alexia Fernández Campbell, “California is cracking down on the gig economy,” Vox, May 30, 2019,

Sarah Holder, “Uber and Lyft Really Don’t Want California to Pass This Worker Rights Bill,” Bloomberg, June 13, 2019,

Hastings College of the Law, “UC Hastings Professor, Academic Leaders Call for Support of AB5,” August 26, 2019,

Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019,

Alejandro Lazo and Eliot Brown, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash Threaten Ballot Fight Over California Gig-Worker Law,” Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2019,

Aaron Gordon, “The Bill That Would Make Uber And Lyft Drivers Employees Isn’t Just Making Uber And Lyft Nervous,” Jalopnik, September 6, 2019,

Sophia Bollag, “California Uber, Lyft drivers to become employees under measure Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’ll sign,” Sacramento Bee, September 11, 2019,

Kate Conger and Noam Scheiber, “Confusion and Defiance Follow California’s New Contractor Law,” New York Times, September 11, 2019,

Aaron Gordon, “Uber To California: Make Us,” Jalopnik, September 11, 2019,

Andrew J. Hawkins, “California just dropped a bomb on the gig economy — what’s next?” Verge, September 11, 2019,

Nathan Heller, “A New California Law Takes Aim at Uber and Lyft,” New Yorker, September 12, 2019,

Noam Cohen, “How Tech Firms Like Uber Hide Behind the ‘Platform Defense,’” Wired, September 13, 2019,

Diane Mulcahy, “California’s New Gig Economy Law Is All Bark, No Bite,” Forbes, September 20, 2019,

Matthew Haag and Patrick McGeehan, “Uber Fined $649 Million for Saying Drivers Aren’t Employees,” New York Times, November 14, 2019,

Sebastian Herrera and Tim Higgins, “California Sues Uber, Lyft Saying They Misclassified Drivers as Independent Contractors,” Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2020,

San Jose Mercury News, “CPUC rules Uber, Lyft drivers are company employees,” Sacramento Bee, June 11, 2020,

Andrew J. Hawkins, “California seeks to force Uber and Lyft to reclassify drivers as employees within weeks,” Verge, June 24, 2020,

Daniel Wiessner, “Penn. Supreme Court says Uber driver is employee entitled to unemployment benefits,” Westlaw, July 27, 2020,

Stephen Caruso, “How a Supreme Court ruling on an Uber driver could remake Pennsylvania’s gig economy,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, July 28, 2020,

Andrew J. Hawkins, “California labor commissioner sues Uber and Lyft for alleged wage theft,” Verge, August 5, 2020,

Faiz Siddiqui, “Uber and Lyft must make their drivers in California full employees, judge rules,” Washington Post, August 10, 2020,

Jessica Bursztynsky and Lauren Feiner, “Lyft may suspend service in California if court requires it to classify drivers as employees,” CNBC, August 12, 2020,

Lauren Feiner, “Uber CEO says its service will probably shut down temporarily in California if it’s forced to classify drivers as employees,” CNBC, August 12, 2020,

Therese Poletti, “Uber and Lyft’s ‘day of reckoning’ is finally here,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2020,

Jonathan Stempel, “Judge rejects Uber, Lyft bids to delay California driver injunction,” Yahoo!, August 13, 2020,

Lauren Feiner, “Appeals court grants Uber and Lyft a temporary reprieve following threats to shut down in California,” CNBC, August 20, 2020,

Kim Bojórquez, “Why are Black and Latino advocacy groups backing Uber, Lyft in California labor law fight?” Sacramento Bee, August 23, 2020,

Michael Hiltzik, “How millions from Uber and Lyft are funding the harassment of a critic,” Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2020,

Michael Hiltzik, “Uber and Lyft just made their campaign to keep exploiting workers the costliest in history,” Los Angeles Times, September 8, 2020,

John Kingston, “Uber/Postmates Driver Loses Court Challenge To California’s AB5 Law,” Yahoo!, September 21, 2020,

Jeong Park, “Fact check: Will Uber, Lyft drivers get paid less than minimum wage under Proposition 22?” Sacramento Bee, September 24, 2020,

Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti, “Uber drivers sue app over ‘constant barrage’ pushing California anti-employment initiative,” Washington Post, October 22, 2020,

Jeong Park, “Uber, Lyft win approval of California gig worker measure,” Sacramento Bee, November 3, 2020,

Steven Hill, “The broken business model of Uber and Lyft is taking a heavy toll on society,” Fortune, December 19, 2020,

Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021,

José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021,

Aarian Marshall, “Gig Companies Fear a Worker Shortage, Despite a Recession,” Wired, March 5, 2021,

Faiz Siddiqui and Andrew Van Dam, “As Uber avoided paying into unemployment, the federal government helped thousands of its drivers weather the pandemic,” Washington Post, March 16, 2021,

Laura Forman, “Uber and Lyft Need a Sharper Turn,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021,

Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021,

Jessica Bursztynsky, “Uber CEO is ‘not happy’ with how long it’s taking to pick riders up or prices being charged,” CNBC, May 25, 2021,

Michael Hiltzik, “Uber reneges on the ‘flexibility’ it gave drivers to win their support for Prop. 22,” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2021,

Mariella Moon, “Uber and Lyft rides are pricier due to a lack of drivers (and the waits are longer, too),” Engadget, June 1, 2021,

Alissa Walker, “Why Your Uber Ride Is Suddenly Costing a Fortune,” New York, June 4, 2021,

Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021,

Cory Doctorow, “The gig economy’s dark-money, astroturf ‘community groups,’” Pluralistic, June 19, 2021,

Rida Qadri and Alexandra Mateescu, “Uber and Lyft: woo drivers with stable pay, not short-term honeypots,” Guardian, June 20, 2021,

Preetika Rana, “Uber, Lyft Sweeten Job Perks Amid Driver Shortage, Lofty Fares,” Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2021,

Edward Ongweso, Jr., “Uber and Lyft Can’t Find Drivers Because Gig Work Sucks,” Vice, July 8, 2021,

Kari Paul, “Uber and Lyft drivers to join day-long strike over working conditions,” Guardian, July 21, 2021,

Laura Forman, “Ride-Hailing Companies Get Some Drivers’ Ed,” Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2021,

Jeong Park, “Court rules California gig worker initiative is unconstitutional, a setback to Uber and Lyft,” Sacramento Bee, August 20, 2021,

Preetika Rana, “California Ballot Measure That Classifies Uber, Lyft Drivers as Independent Ruled Unconstitutional,” Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2021,

Margot Roosevelt and Suhauna Hussain, “Prop. 22 is ruled unconstitutional, a blow to California gig economy law,” Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2021,

Faiz Siddiqui, “California judge rules unconstitutional the measure classifying Uber and Lyft drivers as contractors,” Washington Post, August 20, 2021,

Laura Forman, “An Uncomfortable Proposition for Gig Economy Investors,” Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2021,

Justin Ray, “Prop. 22 is ruled unconstitutional: What it means, how apps reacted and what happens next,” Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2021,

Edward Ongweso, Jr., “Prop 22 Was Declared Unconstitutional, and It’s Just the Beginning,” Vice, August 24, 2021,

Suhauna Hussain, “Prop. 22 was ruled unconstitutional. What will the final outcome be?” Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2021,

Levi Sumagaysay, “Uber, Lyft and other gig companies facing fights over Prop. 22 in California — and in states where they want to replicate it,” MarketWatch, September 16, 2021,

Faiz Siddiqui, “Lyft built a brand on being the nice gig work app clad in pink. Its drivers paint a different picture,” Washington Post, September 21, 2021,

Laura Forman, “At Uber and Lyft, Ride-Price Inflation Is Here to Stay,” Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2021,

Bryce Covert, “Can Anyone Stop the Uberization of the Economy?,” New York, October 18, 2021,

Laura Forman, “Gig Companies Can’t Take Everyone for a Ride,” Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2021,

Jeong Park, “Sacramento family wants answers, support from Uber after man’s killing in San Francisco,” Sacramento Bee, December 18, 2021,

José Rodríguez, Jr., “Uber And Lyft Could Soon Have A Hard Time Denying Drivers Full Worker Status,” Jalopnik, December 28, 2021,

Lee Fang, “Uber CEO Admits Company Can Afford Labor Protections for Drivers,” Intercept, January 7, 2022,

Megan Tomasic, “Police charge Penn Hills man in death of Uber driver in Monroeville,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 17, 2022,

Brody Mullins and Ryan Tracy, “Uber, Lyft and Others Launch Campaign to Head Off Unions,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2022,

Preetika Rana, “Uber Reaches Deal to List All New York City Taxis on Its App,” Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2022,

Jackie Davalos and Drake Bennett, “Gamification Took Over the Gig Economy. Who’s Really Winning?” Bloomberg, May 27, 2022,

Erin Mulvaney and Chris Marr, “Uber-Backed Vote on Gig Work Is Blocked by Massachusetts Court,” Bloomberg, June 14, 2022,

Mike Scarcella, “Uber, Lyft drivers claim price-fixing in lawsuit against companies,” Reuters, June 21, 2022,

Chase DiFeliciantonio, “Uber, Lyft facing fines for failing to provide drivers with proper COVID-19 protections,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 9, 2022,

Joe Napsha and Megan Guza, “Fight between Lyft driver, passenger ends with fatal shooting in Wilkins,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 12, 2022,

Levi Sumagaysay, “FTC sends a warning to Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other ‘gig-work’ companies,” MarketWatch, September 16, 2022,

Gabriel T. Rubin and David Harrison, “Biden Rule Would Add More Gig Workers to Company Payrolls,” Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2022,

Noam Scheiber, “Biden Proposal Could Lead to Employee Status for Gig Workers,” New York Times, October 11, 2022,

Verdant Peak Research, “Uber’s Q3 2022 Earnings: A Fresh Look At The Books,” Seeking Alpha, November 1, 2022,

Sergio Goncalves, “Uber whistleblower says current business model ‘absolutely’ unsustainable,” Reuters, November 2, 2022,

Yujie Zhou, “Uber is hiding customer payments from drivers. Again,” Mission Local, November 16, 2022,

David Benfell, “Nothing quite says my value . . .” Twitter, November 27, 2022,

David Benfell, “I have no choice but to be a lot fussier . . .” Twitter, November 28, 2022,

David Benfell, “It costs money to drive to passengers. . . .” Twitter, November 28, 2022,

Daniel Wiessner, “Biz groups say Biden independent contractor rule clashes with federal law,” Reuters, December 14, 2022,

David Benfell, “Just seeing if I have this straight . . .” Twitter, December 16, 2022,

Winnie Hu and Ana Ley, “Uber Drivers Say They Are Struggling: ‘This Is Not Sustainable,’” New York Times, January 12, 2023,

David Benfell, “I have only spoken with a few passengers, but it looks like . . .,” Twitter, January 24, 2023,

David Benfell, “So what do @Uber drivers get . . .,” Twitter, January 25, 2023,

Marcie Cipriani, “Local rideshare drivers stop accepting rides for 48 hours to protest work conditions,” WTAE, February 10, 2023,

Liz Kilmer, “Uber, Lyft drivers announce strike across Pittsburgh region,” WPXI, February 10, 2023,

Jon Fingas, “Uber and Lyft driver pay isn’t keeping up with soaring fares, study says,” Engadget, February 14, 2023,

Rebecca Bellan, “Lyft is charging riders wait time fees — but drivers aren’t reaping the rewards,” TechCrunch, February 17, 2023,

Levi Sumagaysay, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash trade group asks for delay of worker-classification rule after Marty Walsh resignation,” MarketWatch, February 17, 2023,

Sakshi Venkatraman, “Uber and Lyft drivers in California say they’ve been spontaneously fired by apps, report finds,” NBC News, March 3, 2023,

Michael Sainato, “‘It was traumatic’: Uber, Lyft drivers decry low pay and unfair deactivations,” Guardian, March 10, 2023,

Preetika Rana, “Uber, Lyft Score Victory as California Court Affirms Right to Treat Drivers as Contractors,” Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2023,

Preetika Rana, “What Happened When Uber’s CEO Started Driving for Uber,” Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2023,

Heather Stewart, “‘Stop or I’ll fire you’: the driver who defied Uber’s automated HR,” Guardian, April 16, 2023,

Garrett Leahy, “Uber, DoorDash Drivers Spell Out the New Rules of Tipping,” San Francisco Standard, April 17, 2023,

Kellen Browning, “Minnesota Governor Vetoes Gig Worker Pay Bill,” New York Times, May 25, 2023,

Kellen Browning, “Has ‘Gig Work’ Become a Dirty Word?” New York Times, May 27, 2023,

Brian Merchant, “Two Uber drivers read the fine print — and won millions for California gig workers,” Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2023,

Karen Hube, “Gig Workers Can Save Enough to Retire. How to Be Your Own Pension Fund Manager,” Barron’s, July 1, 2023,

Daniel Wiessner, “Court rules against Uber in major win for California workers,” Reuters, July 18, 2023,

Cory Doctorow, “No, Uber’s (still) not profitable,” Medium, August 9, 2023,

Thomas Germain, “Uber and Lyft Could Leave Minneapolis Over $0.51,” Gizmodo, August 19, 2023,

Paula Reed Ward, “Lawsuit: Uber’s lax security practices led to Turtle Creek driver’s killing,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 8, 2023,

Caitlin Dewey, “States and cities eye stronger protections for gig economy workers,” Stateline, September 19, 2023,

Javier Espinoza, “Uber warns of threat to drivers in ‘hundreds’ of cities under EU gig work plan,” Financial Times, September 20, 2023,

Lauren Kaori Gurley, “Millions of gig workers could qualify as employees under new Biden-era rule,” Washington Post, January 9, 2024,

Akash Sriram, “Uber, Lyft, DoorDash drivers to strike on Valentine’s Day for fair pay,” Reuters, February 12, 2024,

Lizzy McLellan Ravitch, “PHL Airport Uber and Lyft drivers will strike on Valentine’s Day. Here’s why,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 13, 2024,

Evan Robinson-Johnson, “Uber, Lyft drivers plan daylong strike over complaints about wages, traumatic work experiences,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 14, 2024,

Jordan Valinsky, “Lyft and Uber to cease operations in Minneapolis after new minimum wage law,” Cable News Network, March 15, 2024,

  1. [1]Eliot Brown, “Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit?” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019,
  2. [2]Laura Forman, “Lyft’s Defensive Driving Stalls Out,” Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2023,
  3. [3]Ashley Capoot, “Uber beats estimates and the stock is up,” CNBC, February 8, 2023,
  4. [4]Michael Sainato, “‘It was traumatic’: Uber, Lyft drivers decry low pay and unfair deactivations,” Guardian, March 10, 2023,; Sakshi Venkatraman, “Uber and Lyft drivers in California say they’ve been spontaneously fired by apps, report finds,” NBC News, March 3, 2023,
  5. [5]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d.,

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