Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers rally for better wages

Taxi drivers Getachew Mersha (left) and Dawit Tesfaye lead a group of drivers and community members on their way to deliver a petition to Mayor Ed Murray's Office requesting rideshare drivers be allowed to unionize. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
Taxi drivers Getachew Mersha (left) and Dawit Tesfaye on their way to deliver a petition to Mayor Ed Murray’s Office requesting rideshare drivers be allowed to unionize. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)

About 20 Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers joined more than 30 organizers and community members at City Hall today to rally for legislation that would allow drivers to unionize.

The rally, which aimed to highlight unfair working conditions within the city’s transportation companies, involved speeches by Teamsters Local 117 organizer Dawn Gearheart, King County Labor Council president Nicole Grant, Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers, and Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien.

Members of the Transit Riders Union and Teamsters Local 117 stand in support during the Voice for Drivers rally today at Seattle City Hall. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
Members of the Transit Riders Union and Teamsters Local 117 stand in support during the Voice for Drivers rally today at Seattle City Hall. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)

“On the one hand, we have this multi-billion dollar company that’s trying to monopolize the taxi industry around the world and [on the other] we have drivers making less than minimum wage,” Councilman O’Brien said. “What we’re trying to do with this legislation is level that playing field so the drivers have a voice.”

During the rally, organizers collected additional signatures for their petition in support of Mike O’Brien’s “A Voice for Drivers” legislation, which would allow for collective bargaining between drivers and the transportation companies. If the legislation passes, Seattle will become the first city to allow Uber drivers to organize legally.

A representative from the Mayor's office accepts the Voice for Drivers petition from Uber, Lyft and other for-hire drivers. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
A representative from the Mayor’s office accepts the Voice for Drivers petition from Uber, Lyft and other for-hire drivers. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)

Most drivers struggle with a language barrier, said Fasil Teka, an Uber and taxi driver, during his speech.

“We try to talk to taxi companies or the city but nobody understands us and nobody gives us a chance to speak,” Teka said. “So by having this new bill and us coming together, we will make a lot of change.”

Ride share drivers waiting to deliver the Voice for Drivers petition. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
Ride share drivers waiting to deliver the Voice for Drivers petition. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)

After the rally, drivers and community members delivered a petition with more than 400 signatures in support of the “A Voice for Drivers” legislation directly to the Office of Mayor Ed Murray.

“They make this city move,” O’Brien said about for-hire drivers. “And they deserve a better wage.”

Sukhchain Bahwait, an Uber and Orange Cab driver, explains why he feels transportation network companies are being unfair to drivers. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
Sukhchain Bahwait, an Uber and Orange Cab driver, explains why he feels transportation network companies are being unfair to drivers. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
Yellow cab drivers watch the rally. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
Yellow cab drivers watch the rally. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
Kimberly Mustafa, a former Lyft driver who claims she was deactivated by the company for attending a Teamsters Local 117 meeting. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
Kimberly Mustafa, a former Lyft driver who claims she was deactivated by the company for attending a Teamsters Local 117 meeting. (Photo by Jovelle Tamayo)
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