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Uber and Lyft drivers debate whether to work during Unite the Right rally


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Aug. 10, 2018:
Uber and Lyft drivers debate whether to work during Unite the Right rally
By Martine Powers

As government and law enforcement agencies finalize plans and protocol for managing the potential influx of white nationalists and white supremacists for Sunday’s Unite the Right rally in Washington, some ride-share drivers are debating whether they should work, fearing hostility from racist riders.

On message boards and Facebook groups, Uber and Lyft drivers — particularly those who are people of color — have been weighing whether they should drive in the District on Sunday. And, if they do, how they will respond if they’re matched with a passenger whose views are abhorrent to their own personhood.

“Stay away from Foggy Bottom this Sunday,” read one post on UberPeople, a message board that is popular with the platform’s drivers.

“Looks like a good time to drive out to Deep Creek and chill on the lake,” said another.

“The surge will be wild,” said one person on the message board. “I’m gonna sit this one out though.”

A few joked about what they would do if a white nationalist got in their car, seeking a ride to Lafayette Square. (“Pick them on DuPont, drive them to Leesburg and drop them there telling them that police don’t let you get closer,” one person quipped.)

But drivers’ concerns about safety and potential harassment are very real. Last year, in one incident the day before the Unite for Right protest in Charlottesville, two high-profile white nationalist activists hailed an Uber in D.C., according toBuzzFeed News. The driver was a black woman. When the car passed the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the two men began making racist comments.

The Uber driver stopped the car and demanded that the two passengers get out. The incident was caught on video, and both riders were later banned from the Uber app, BuzzFeed reported.

In preparation for Sunday’s Unite the Right 2, as organizers have dubbed it, Uber has sent a message to its drivers in the Washington region, reminding them of community guidelines — and their right to kick a passenger out a car if they are harassed or threatened.

“Regardless of event, drivers are advised to follow all local laws but have the right to refuse service to riders who are disrespectful or who make them feel unsafe,” the message from Uber said.

That option has been used by one driver, Tom, wholives in Arlington and asked that his last name not be used out of fear of retribution from Uber. He has driven part-time for the company for more than two years, and once kicked a customer out of his car. In that incident, the man had been drinking, and began loudly using racial epithets. Tom pulled the car over and instructed the man and his girlfriend to find another ride.

“Generally, I don’t have a problem picking anybody up, as long as they’re respectful,” he said.

But for Tom, his decision about whether to venture into downtown Washington on Sunday won’t be based on whether he feels safe, but on whether he stands to make enough money to justify the headache of navigating the traffic, closed streets and police blockades around the White House and Foggy Bottom.

Previously, he said, he worked Inauguration Day and the Women’s March, as well as other major protests in D.C.

“Honestly, I cleaned up on those events,” he said.

But in recent weeks, he said, Uber has changed its calculus on surge pricing and how it compensates drivers for working during high-demand hours. He and other drivers have noticed a precipitous decline in the amount of the cut that they’ve received for peak-period trips, saying that drivers are now receiving a nominal bonus for driving during asurge-pricing window, rather than a percentage of the total fare. In practice, he says, that has meant that he has earned an extra $3 to $5 on long-haul, surge-priced trips where a customer is paying double the usual fare.

With that in mind, Tom said, the prospect of ferrying white nationalists around Sunday is not worth the meager pay he stands to earn.

“I go where the money is,” he said. “But with themarch, if it’s going to be like this, it’s not worth all the aggravation dealing with all of that for an extra three to five dollars.”


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Politics aside, no Uber driver should drive in ANY environment where they don't feel safe. If you're concerned that pax are going to behave badly -- because it's drunk time or politics time -- just stay away.

Our pal Tom has actually hit on the crux of the matter, though. With Uber's new fake surge pay, it makes no sense to drive these big events. You're going to pay me $2.75 extra for a ride you formerly paid me $20 extra for? Lemme think about that for a minute...um, no.

The only reason to drive big events is to make money. When Uber kills the surge, these drivers would make better money driving in the suburbs or other parts of DC away from the BS surge.


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  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #3
Follow up:

The last part of the article spotlights the new 'Charlotte Surge' and how drivers are getting screwed.

The reporter said they might do a story about Charlotte Surge and how it affects drivers.

I'd recommend people go into the comments section and respectfully talk about how much Uber's screwing drivers.


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For those drivers who DO drive these events, I have a suggestion.

You are going to get complaints about the pax having difficulty getting a ride, long pickups, etc. EXPLAIN it to them. Pennies for driver surge means drivers stay away. Drivers staying away means you have to wait. You are paying some multiple of the normal fare, and the driver is literally getting pennies. At the end of the ride, SHOW THEM what you got paid.

Riders think DRIVERS are the ones making all the money from surges. SHOW THEM the truth.


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Props to the reporter for recognizing the underlying story and how much of a change this new surge will be. And Thomas... you saint of a man! Thankfully the reporter found a rideshare driver who was so simplistically articulate in breaking down this farcical surge update instead of the bozos they always seem to interview. If you are ever in the Carolina mountains, Tom, all the free Uber rides and beer you can drink. Well done, good sir!

Had he not redacted his last name from the story, he'd have surely been deactivated from a phantom report and put on Uber's "DNR" list.


Well-Known Member
You've already driven white supremacists around. You just didn't know it. The difference is that they will be all riled up. Its just like riders from a fighting match, playoff game or a strip club. They will be hyped up and angry.
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