A number of Uber drivers of their ‘Black Car’ service are striking this afternoon in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco. Those drivers participating have parked in front of Uber’s headquarters. They intend on striking – not providing rides to Uber users – during the rush hour period, and perhaps the weekend.
The drivers that TNW spoke to stated that they are being treated unfairly, specifically citing a lack of communication and input in the Uber decision making process, and the fact that Uber does not provide a commercial insurance policy, leaving drivers legally culpable in the case of an accident.
The issue of insurance will likely be divisive, as Uber has long depended on independent contractors to staff its service, and not regular employees.
Something that we have heard repeatedly is that the drivers wish to formally unionize. The strike has been going on for the past two hours.
Here is a shot of the scene:
TNW has reached out to Uber directly. Recently, Uber lowered its prices 10% in San Francisco. Uber as a company is growing quickly, working to quadruple its staff, though it remains unsure about an IPO.
Uber is no stranger to controversy. In many cities that it has expanded to, it has faced pushback from local taxi drivers and local governments. That said, Uber has been effective at finding a niche in every city that it targets for expansion.
Update: Police have arrived and are giving tickets. The cars are not moving. By TNW’s count, there are about 30 drivers taking part in the strike.
Update 2: Here’s a screenshot of the Uber app showing the situation:
Update 3: At 6:33 pm PST, the protesting Uber drivers have begun leaving the area, although some still remain.
Update 4: Uber has responded with the following statement from Uber SF GM Ilya Abyzov:
Uber is 100 percent committed to working with only the highest quality transportation providers, thousands of whom are using Uber to grow their businesses and provide quick and reliable service to San Franciscans. Drivers who don’t know the city well or who are unsafe or unprofessional ultimately receive consistently negative feedback from riders that we cannot ignore.
Also, here’s a video of a spokesman for the drivers airing their complaints:
Photo credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images TNW’s Ken Yeung provided the source reporting and photographs for this story.