Imagine you’re driving through an unfamiliar neighborhood. You see a shadowy figure in the distance. Rolling up to the curb, you realize he’s your passenger. And he has a gun.
It’s a nightmare scenario for any app worker. I’ve driven for Uber in Chicago for six years, and these worries creep up all day. I worked long hours to keep our communities running during the pandemic, driving people to hospitals and making food deliveries. But COVID-19 brought another epidemic: alarming rates of carjackings and assaults against ride-hail drivers. Violence threatens our livelihoods and scares passengers.
That’s why Illinois ride-hail and delivery workers are coming together to fight the app companies for the protections and rights we need.
When I get behind the wheel, a target is on my back. Uber drivers have suffered over 24,000 reported assaults or threats of assaults, with little-to-no recourse. Last year, 44 Chicago ride-hail drivers had a carjacking, more than any other U.S. city and making up more than one-third of all driver carjacking reports nationwide.
Some workers lose their car or wallet in an attack or get injured. Others don’t make it, like Javier Ramos and Joe Schelstraet, both shot while on the job. Dozens more have been victims this summer, many in daylight. Now, folks install dashboard cameras or only drive around O’Hare and Midway airports. Many drivers are quitting out of fear.
I enjoy my job and want to stay on the road, but I am in a tough spot. My safety is at the whim of the app, which tells me who to pick up and where to go. Passengers can use fake names and attack drivers anonymously. Gas prices are hitting ride-hail drivers hard, too. The apps tacked on a $0.55 fuel surcharge this spring, but the program was halted in June, just as we saw record-high gas prices statewide.
Full op-ed here.