On Feb. 5, people all over Baton Rouge may have had a hard time finding an Uber ride.
In response to wage cuts, many local drivers staged a strike. They went offline starting from Friday at 5 p.m. to Saturday at 8 a.m. Some of these drivers even met in the Wal-Mart parking lot on College Drive.
The cuts, which took effect nearly a month ago, lowered the rates from $1.35 a mile to $0.90 cents. Uber issued a statement on Jan. 8, saying that in an effort to raise holiday demand, they were going to cut prices in more than 100 United States and Canadian cities.
Stephen Rice is one of the Uber drivers who helped organize the protest. In an interview with The Advocate, Rice said he drove 100 miles more than usual to make up for the cuts, but brought home $150 less than normal.
“The fear is if we don’t say anything,” Rice said, according to The Advocate, “the rates will go down even more.”
Despite these cuts, Uber has said it is working to guarantee earnings for drivers to make sure nobody is at a disadvantage.
“And if drivers aren’t busier, prices will go back up again. That’s 24/7 incentives to put drivers at ease,” an Uber news release said.
Although Uber’s plan involves increasing the amount of riders while fairly compensating drivers, the reality is not that simple.
Ben Landry, another local driver, gave his own perspective about Uber and the recent controversy.
“I have been an Uber driver since September of 2014,” Landry said. “I am a licensed realtor with Keller Williams so it’s not my main job, but it helps me get clients as well as make some extra money.”
Landry said he became a driver first because of the freedom of the job, then because he saw his friends making money.
Like almost every driver in Baton Rouge, Landry was notified of the strike through drivers requesting fake rides.
“Some one was requesting rides to get our number, and then texting us to inform us of the protest,” he said. “I did know about the strike on Friday, but I didn’t participate.”
According to Landry, part of the reason he did not participate was his opinion on the changes.
“I think the wage cuts aren’t as bad as people make them out to be. That’s what sets us apart from cab companies. If you want more riders, lower the rates. The whole point of Uber was to give us a cheaper and more reliable way to get around other than the taxi companies, which are far lacking in service and more expensive,” he said.
However, despite his lack of participation in the strike, he still did not seem confident that Uber was making the right decisions.
“I would say it was fair compensation if there was more business,” he said. “But there are just not enough riders. Uber hires almost non-stop, so unless it’s a big night in the city, there are far too many drivers to make any substantial money.”
Because of this, Landry does not see a future that revolves around Uber.
“From here on out, I will only drive during the football season,” Landry said.