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When Uber Drivers Take to the Streets

In general, the Uber drivers' protest is valid
By The News · 28 of July 2016 08:03:54
Uber drivers protest Uber Pool in Mexico City, No available, photo: Cuartoscuro/Isaac Esquivel

There is a certain irony when those who have been protested against suddenly become the protestors.

That is the case with Uber drivers, who Tuesday organized (but had trouble carrying out because of police intervention) a series of demonstrations throughout Mexico City demanding a higher cut (or the total elimination) of Uber Pool rides and a higher fee for canceled trips.

They also are demanding that fares start running from the time the client requests the service and that newly enlisted Uber drivers be vetted for drug and alcohol consumption, psychological fitness and knowledge of the city’s roadscape (a prerequisite that was formerly applied to candidates, but was eliminated by the company six months ago).

In general, the Uber drivers’ protest is valid.

Not only did they never agree to shared rides (most were contracted to provide a private cab service, not a pooled one), but also, while inflation in Mexico is soaring (thanks in large part to a devalued peso), the minimum Uber fare has decreased from 50 pesos in 2015 to 35 pesos today.

Notwithstanding, the drivers’ gripe is not with the Mexico City public, but rather with the international company that employs them, and their protest should be against their employer, not their customers.

Admittedly, the drivers originally tried to present their grievances to Juan José Fernández Gallardo, head of operations for Uber in Mexico City, on Friday, July 15, but the corporate official simply refused to accept any of their demands.

At the moment, there are about 20,000 drivers working for the app-based cab service in Mexico, and they have, for the most part, the support of the majority of Mexico City residents, who prefer Uber’s safe and reliable service over more costly and less regulated taxis, but blocking traffic in the city could turn the tide of public opinion against them.

The Uber drivers deserve a fair wage and the company’s decision to change the rules of their pay scale or services in midstream is both unfair and unethical.

But appealing to the public through the media or other less intrusive means than demonstrations might be a more productive option for winning their case.

Thérèse Margolis can be reached at therese.margolis@gmail.com.