David Crane keeps a yellow legal pad in his car, pages and pages filled with his thoughts on the concerns of thousands of other rideshare drivers like him, with demands that boil down to better wages, working conditions safer work and trade union rights.
“We deserve what is right. We deserve better pay for the time we spend away from home. We deserve decent wages, and we’re not getting them,” Crane said.
At a Sunday afternoon press conference, Illinois rideshare drivers and delivery people from Uber, Lyft, Grubhub and DoorDash announced that different local groups — which total up to 20,000 members — are joining to a national movement led by Justice for App Workers.
“It’s a rollercoaster of a job. Every day we go there, we don’t know what we’re going to face. Maybe we’ll go and maybe it’ll be a good day where the revenues are strong and customers are pleasant,” said Lenny Sanchez, of JFAW and the Illinois Independent Drivers Guild.
“But at the same time, we always think about the potential of having an unruly and disgruntled customer making an unfair claim against us. And with an algorithm that is our boss, that sometimes means our position as a worker is terminated and our means of supporting our families are completely taken away from us,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez spoke in front of a banner with the coalition’s logo: a swollen fist holding a cellphone, the word “justice” written in 11 different languages in a circle around it. JFAW was born six months ago in New York with 100,000 workers, and Sunday’s announcement marked the movement’s expansion into the Midwest.
“It’s a movement that we are trying to take to the national level. We started with Chicago. We hope the next step will be other cities, and we invite everyone to join in, be part of it,” said Adalgisa Payero-Diarra of JFAW New York. “So let’s just keep the movement and the momentum going.”
As Chicago’s rideshare and delivery drivers face rising gas prices, inflation and workplace risks, app-based workers are fighting to get their companies to meet six specific demands living wages, safer work environments, an end to unfair account disabling, quality health care and mental health care benefits, access to toilets at work and the right to form a union.
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Désirée Gillespi stopped being a carpool delivery driver five months ago. She said that, among other things, she was exposed to constant sexual harassment from customers and that Uber only sent her a generic message in response to her reports.
“It’s really a shame that we give everything – we go there just to try to support our families – and we don’t get much in return,” Gillespi said. “So I’m proud to be part of the justice for app workers coalition because we’re much stronger together. We can’t do this alone. We have to come together and we have to unionize.
The JFAW Illinois Coalition includes seven organizations: Road Warriors Chicago, Illinois Independent Drivers Guild, Latinos Unidos Uber/Lyft, SOS Uber y Lyft, Rideshare Revolutionaries, Chicago Uber and Lyft Drivers, and Chicago Stolen Car Directory. Many members of the different groups organized through Facebook, as did the first coalition in New York.
“I hope we can get an Uber and a Lyft to treat us better, as humans, because sometimes we feel like we’re not being treated like humans,” Uber driver Manny Levya told full time and member of SOS Uber y Lyft. the Tribune. “They don’t care about us every time something happens to us, often instead of fighting for us we’re actually turned off.”
The press conference ended with a day of rest and respite for enforcement workers at Schiller Park’s Grove 10, complete with bouncy houses for kids, food trucks for families and music.
“I like to tell people that maybe it’s a simple job, but it’s not always an easy job. And I see that as taking care of people for a living,” Crane said, looking at the crowds gathered on a cloudy Sunday afternoon. “We should certainly be treated a lot better than we are now.”