CT rideshare drivers join nationwide Valentine's Day strike calling for fair wages

14 Feb 2024

Connecticut Public

Adam Abubaker, Uber and Lyft driver and part of the Independent Driver's Guild. Abubaker participated in a Valentine's Day strike at Bradley International Airport over poor pay and working conditions.

Rideshare drivers in Windsor Locks spent part of their Valentine’s Day on strike, asking for better pay and working conditions.

Adam Abubaker said his wages have gone down over the years.

“When I started with my average week I was (making) over $2,000 a week and now I don’t even make over $600,” Abubaker said.

Abubaker is also a member of the Independent Drivers Guild, a group of rideshare drivers advocating for better working conditions and pay. They held a strike at Bradley International Airport’s waiting lot, where rideshare drivers wait to pick up fares. It was a part of a nationwide strike held Wednesday by rideshare drivers calling for better wages.

The strike happened as other rideshare driver advocacy groups have continued to pressure state lawmakers to consider a bill mandating minimum wages for drivers, after a previous effort in 2023 failed to get traction in the state legislature.

But advocates like James Bhandary-Alexander, an attorney and special advisor to Connecticut Drivers United, said this year presents different challenges.

“It’s a short session, so it’s less of a runway to pass really substantive legislation,” Bhandary-Alexander said.

A previous effort in 2023 had some support from lawmakers, but the bill which would have mandated minimum pay for drivers, and stronger labor protections, ended up getting turned into a proposed task force to study the problem, according to previous reporting from Connecticut Public.

But Bhandary-Alexander said he’s confident there’s enough support for a bill this time around. He mentioned the labor committee’s receptiveness to the idea.

“We were really thankful that the committee raised the concept for a bill,” he said. “And we hope and expect that there will be a public hearing scheduled so drivers can come and directly tell their stories to lawmakers.”

Bhandary-Alexander said the drivers are better able to articulate concrete policy recommendations, as opposed to a few years ago, when they first started agitating for vague recommendations.

They now can advocate for a specific bill and he said the drivers are committed to a long-term battle for their interests.

“We feel we’re on the right trajectory, because we do see a long vision,” he said.

Such a bill, if passed, would greatly impact drivers like Abubaker. He lives in New Haven, but travels daily to Bradley International Airport for work.

The airport’s waiting lot has limited parking spaces for drivers. The spaces are within a designated waiting zone for Uber and Lyft drivers. This means drivers outside the zone won’t be able to get fares from the app, according to Bhandary-Alexander.

Abubaker said he hopes state politicians can hear his plight.

“All the driver hopes that all the politicians right now, to look at our bill to see how much we (are) suffering because it’s not fair,” Abubaker said.

But at least Uber isn’t too concerned. The company issued a statement on the strike, which was part of a coordinated national effort.

“Despite the headlines, we’ve seen no impact to our operations or reliability for riders. In fact, in most markets, there are more drivers on the road today than there were during the same period last week.”

The company said drivers average around $33.00 an hour and the company states it only takes below 20% of driver earnings after commercial insurance. Driver deactivations, which are another point of contention with drivers, are now better explained, according to Uber.

But according to Abubaker, the company doesn’t respect drivers and pointed out CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s high salary of $24 million a year means Abubaker would have to work more hours than humanly possible to get the same amount.

“If it wasn’t for the driver, he wouldn’t be there.”