When ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft arrived in Los Angeles six years ago, they sold Angelenos on the narrative that driving for their companies was a flexible way to make money while being your own boss, but that narrative is no longer true in 2018, it was reported Thursday.
UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that more than half of Uber and Lyft drivers in Los Angeles drive full time, the Los Angeles Times reported. Many also struggle to pay for expenses such as gas, insurance and vehicle maintenance costs, and around a third either purchased or leased their car specifically to drive for the companies and must now continue driving to pay off those loans.
“We knew from seeing the news coverage that conditions for Uber and Lyft drivers were bad, but it was shocking to see how bad it was,” said Lucero Herrera, a coauthor of the report, according to The Times.
Around half of Uber and Lyft drivers surveyed said it’s their only job, and roughly the same percentage said they work more than 35 hours a week and struggle to pay for gas, insurance and car maintenance costs. Many said they drive extra hours, borrow money, or use a credit card to pay those expenses.
About two-thirds of respondents said driving for Uber or Lyft was their main source of income.
The majority of respondents said they wanted higher wages and payment transparency, the ability to choose their passengers without penalty, and assistance with vehicle care and maintenance. The drivers, who are classified as independent contractors rather than employees, overwhelmingly said they want to negotiate the conditions of their contract with Uber and Lyft, The Times reported.
Uber and Lyft, which were not consulted for the report, pushed back on the findings, noting that its 260 survey participants represent only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of ride-hailing drivers in Los Angeles County, The Times reported. An Uber spokesperson also drew attention to the report’s research advisors, one of which is a member of the National Taxi Workers Alliance, a group that has historically been critical of the ride-hailing industry.