Uber (UBER) began trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange at $42 per share, below its original IPO price of $45. While the company is raising billions, it pays drivers an average of $9.21 per hour, less than minimum wage in some states.
The way to fix this gap would be for the ride-hailer to take less money from each ride, so “we [Uber drivers] can make more,” Dolores Benitez, New York Taxi Workers Alliance member and Uber driver, told Yahoo Finance On the Move.
When explaining her first-hand experience working for Uber, Benitez said: “It’s very hard dealing with the traffic and paying bills. To pay your bills, you have to stay long hours... you don’t get enough to go home and pay your bills.”
Benitez, like most cab drivers in New York City. became an Uber driver because they had no other option: “To make a living, I am a driver, I raised my kids on yellow-cab driving. I joined Uber because the business went down on the yellow-cab, because of Uber, so we had to find a way to make money.” Benitez said. “We looked for better days, better pay, and we ended up no pay, getting the lowest pay ever.”
Uber does not pay for insurance, gas, or benefits, said Benitez, even though the company takes money out of drivers’ checks for “Uber fees, vehicle expenses, payroll taxes, and the cost of a ‘modest benefits package.’” According to the Economic Policy Institute, about a third of what passengers pay goes to these fees.
“We pay for everything. We pay for the insurance, for gasoline, for cleaning, for everything,” Benitez told Yahoo Finance. “The only thing they provide is the customer.”
As an Uber driver there’s also no work-life balance. The extremely low pay results in always having to work, she said. “All the time we have spent, nights and days, weekends, holidays, we have no Christmas, because every holiday is actually business for driving. If you stay home, so you’re not going to eat, you’re not going to pay your bills, so you have to go out and not celebrate.” Benitez said she cannot even celebrate Mother’s Day, because she is forced to work to “make a couple of dollars.”
According to Benitez, Uber’s ride-sharing competitors treat their drivers in a similar fashion. “I drive one company one day and the next day I drive another. All of them are the same thing. All of them are stealing from you.”
Taylor Locke is a producer for Yahoo Finance On the Move.