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'Drivers built them their empires': union leader on Uber ahead of its IPO

Nick Rose

Uber (UBER) and Lyft (LYFT) drivers went on strike during rush hour Wednesday morning, staging protests in cities around the world to demand higher wages and benefits.

The embattled drivers were seen picketing at airports, on bridges and even outside of Uber’s headquarters in New York City, claiming they are being exploited and earning pennies on the dollar as massive companies rake in billions of dollars on Wall Street.

“Drivers are the people that built them their empires and they need to be treated with respect and dignity,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, told Yahoo Finance On the Move. “The money is there. They just don’t want to see it spent on the drivers. There are high bonuses for many of their executives, when that money could instead be spent on their drivers to earn a livable income.”

Uber and Lyft drivers carry signs during a demonstration outside of Uber headquarters Wednesday. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The strike comes at a crucial time for Uber, which is expected to launch its highly anticipated IPO Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. The company, which is expected to price its shares Thursday, reportedly set set a range of $44 to $50 per share, valuing the company at $80.53 billion.

As if that isn’t enough to enrage drivers, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stands to earn a bonus of more than $100 million if the company can maintain a value above $120 billion dollars for 90 days, according to the company’s S1 filing.

Desai said investors should be cautious about buying into a ride-hailing company like Uber, “Part of these protests... was to say to investors ‘you really need to think twice, because your business model will have to shift or you will not be able to maintain a workforce.’”

Nick Rose is a producer for Yahoo Finance On the Move.