Uber, Lyft drivers to protest at O'Hare for fair wages, better working conditions

Uber and Lyft drivers say they are getting a rough ride from the app companies and are demanding fair wages, job safety and health protections.

Several drivers plan to rally at 7 p.m. Tuesday at O'Hare International Airport, more specifically at TNP Waiting Lot Alpha near Balmoral Avenue and Mannheim Road in Des Plaines.

The rally is being organized by the Justice for App Workers coalition, which includes such organizations as Chicago Uber Drivers, Road Warriors Chicago, Independent Drivers Guild Illinois, Latinos Unidos Uber y Lyft, Rideshare Revolutionaries, Chicago Stolen Car Directory and SOS Uber y Lyft. Their members drive for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and GrubHub, among others.

"These apps have been doing whatever they want, and that's why we're doing this rally, to put an end to this abuse," said Lenny Sanchez of Elk Grove Village, director of the Illinois chapter of the Independent Drivers Guild. "And that's what this is. It is abuse of the workforce to maximize profits."

Attempts to reach representatives for Uber or Lyft were unsuccessful.

George Keske, who drives for Uber, said one of the conditions drivers are protesting is "fraudulent deactivations."

"They're firing you basically on the word of a passenger," he said. "The passenger will sit there and say, 'This driver was drunk,' or 'This driver was sleeping at the wheel.'"

The driver then can be either temporarily or permanently deactivated without an investigation, said Keske, who claimed he once was the victim of a fraudulent deactivation.

Sanchez said the city of Chicago recently made matters worse by passing an ordinance requiring Uber or Lyft to report to the city when a driver has been deactivated. The city will review the reason and, if it feels there is a public safety issue, notify the other app for which the driver works, leading to another deactivation. Sanchez said this strips the driver of due process, because there is no investigation before the deactivation from Uber or Lyft, and the city just goes off what is reported to it.

"This is as if I had two jobs, one at Target, one at Walmart, and I happened to get fired from one of them and, in turn, would be banned from working at the other one, as well. It's un-American. It strips us of our due process," Sanchez said.

Keske said drivers also are seeking fair pay. Uber takes up to 70% of his receipts, he said.

Sanchez said Uber and Lyft have changed the rate structure over the years to take an increasingly larger chunk of the fare.

In one case, Sanchez said, a Lyft driver took a passenger from the O'Hare area to near Indianapolis. The driver received only about $150 from a $350 fare, while also having to foot the bill for gasoline and having to drive back to Chicago.

Sanchez, who began his career as an Uber driver in 2015, now only drives sparingly. He said one of the major issues is bathroom conditions at O'Hare.

The city of Chicago has a lot just off Mannheim Road where Uber and Lyft drivers have access to portable toilets. He said there are long waiting times, while the portable toilets themselves are "sometimes not cleaned out as often as they should be or that they are expected to be. Conditions of these things get absolutely atrocious."

Uber driver George Keske is among a group of ride-share drivers protesting working conditions. Photo courtesy of George Keske
Uber drivers like George Keske will be protesting at Chicago O'Hare International Airport about wages and poor work conditions. Photo courtesy of George Keske
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