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Uber and Lyft drivers in Chicago strike in solidarity with countrywide protests

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As the companies hold billion-dollar IPOs, drivers are demanding better treatment

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Thousands of Chicago Uber and Lyft drivers are turning off their apps Wednesday as part of a national strike demanding better wages and working conditions from the ride-hailing giants. They join similar demonstrations taking place in U.S. cities including New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

The strike comes weeks after Lyft’s initial public offering (IPO) on the stock market and days before Uber is poised to go public. The timing is meant to bring awareness to the growing rift between the companies’ billion-dollar Wall Street valuations and the struggles drivers face trying to get by in the gig economy.

Even Uber’s own IPO filing noted growing dissatisfaction among drivers, who the company classifies as contractors rather than full employees. A 2018 study from the Economic Policy Institute found that on average Uber drivers make less than $12 per hour.

Roughly 17,000 drivers in the Chicago area have committed to turn off their apps, according to local nonprofit organization. The group is not actively encouraging Chicago’s drivers to strike, but its organizers say they support drivers who choose to participate in the action.

Chicago Rideshare Advocates has put pressure on Chicago’s elected officials to enact new regulations that would improve conditions for the nearly 109,000 ride-hailing drivers registered with the city. These include increased base fares and shares of surge pricing, city-supplied vehicle inspections, and a cap on the total number of licensed ride-hailing drivers allowed in the city.

In addition to switching off their Uber and Lyft apps and parking their cars, Chicago drivers plan to assemble near Buckingham Fountain and stage a downtown demonstration at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. According to early reports, the protests don’t appear to have significantly impacted traffic, service, or surge pricing.

Beyond ride-hailing service, Uber and Lyft also own and manage a number of other transportation enterprises such as electric scooters and bike share programs. Lyft owns Motivate, the parent company and operator of Chicago’s Divvy bikes.