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story.lead_photo.caption Michelle Dottin, a driver with the Independent Drivers Union Guild, speaks at a drivers’ protest rally Wednesday outside Uber and Lyft offices in New York.

Uber and Lyft drivers upset with employment and pay practices went on strike Wednesday, drawing attention from investors ahead of Uber's initial public offering scheduled for Friday.

Advocates for the drivers posted anecdotes, photos and flyers on social media complaining of falling pay, long hours and no benefits from ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Groups of drivers in places including Los Angeles, New York, Britain and Australia stood in solidarity Wednesday. They held signs and flags saying, "Respect the drivers!" and "Invest In Our Lives Not In Their Stocks!"

Ten U.S. organizations participated in the strike, according to Rideshare Drivers United, a California labor group that sparked the effort last month. What began as a protest for its 4,400 members spread to more drivers with the help of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, motivating drivers to log out of their ride-hailing apps for 24 hours.

Julian Johnson, 29, of Fayetteville, a logistics worker who drives for Uber on the side, supported the strike despite the loss of a day's pay.

"I think it's necessary, especially living in cities with high costs of living," Johnson said.

The protest effort came after Uber initiated a 25 percent wage reduction for drivers in Los Angeles. Uber cut driver compensation from 80 cents per mile to 60 cents per mile, according to Rideshare Drivers United. Lyft later followed suit and eliminated its multipliers, which allow drivers to earn more than the base rate of 80 cents per mile. Rates were lowered because of the quicker turnarounds that drivers get in cities with dense populations, Uber and Lyft have said.

In Arkansas, pay rates are between 76 cents and 88 cents per mile depending on the region, according to the state's Uber drivers.

When the San Francisco-based service expanded to Arkansas, the rate was $1.50 per mile; it was later slashed in half, then raised slightly to compensate for insurance and other fees, said Stephen Taylor, a contract driver and administrator for a Little Rock ride-hailing Facebook group.

Scott Myers of Fayetteville said Wednesday that his recent pay equaled about 88 cents per mile.

Efforts from ride-hailing services to trim costs come as they try to create returns for investors. Uber is preparing an initial public offering for Friday.

Shares of Lyft fell $6.43 to close Wednesday at $52.91.

Ride-hailing services handle drivers as contractors, not full-time workers. Uber and Lyft argue the drivers prefer the flexible schedule. But drivers lack full-time benefits such as health care and have little control over their fares, which the companies set and take without negotiations.

These services have also come under scrutiny over sexual harassment allegations involving drivers.

"There is very little vetting to get drivers on the road," Myers said. "I think there needs to be some stricter guidelines."

Despite Wednesday's strike, it was business as usual for many drivers in cities big and small. Disappointed social media users on Reddit vented about drivers ignoring the strike in large cities such as Detroit and Orlando, Fla.

"No big surge this morning. Airport queue shows 36 cars!" a user said on Reddit.

"I had a couple of passengers earlier ask me about it," said Myers, 40, a freelance graphic designer and contract driver for Uber and Lyft. He heard about the strike over the radio and anticipated a possible dip in drivers on Wednesday. But he said he didn't know of any organizations picketing in the Fayetteville area or see on his mobile app any surges that would indicate a temporary boost in rates, Myers said.

"It's a pretty normal day here in Northwest Arkansas," he said.

Business on 05/09/2019

Print Headline: Uber, Lyft drivers protest over pay

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