Monday, May 17, 2021
Uber drivers protest billboard campaign

Uber drivers protest billboard campaign

Company claims to support Black workers while undermining their rights with a state ballot initiative.


Rideshare drivers and organizers from rideshare driver advocacy groups gathered on Broadway in Oakland Thursday to express outrage over a controversial billboard ad by Uber equating patronizing Uber with solidarity with the Black community.

Protesters in Oakland say Uber billboard ignored the plight of workers of color.

The billboard ad reads: “If you tolerate racism, delete Uber. Black people have the right to move without fear.”

Demonstrators said that Uber is being hypocritical by outwardly supporting racial justice while also supporting California Proposition 22, which organizers said would permanently remove labor protections for rideshare and delivery workers, many of whom are people of color.

Uber’s billboard ad campaign, which launched on August 28, the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and the March on Washington, places similar advertisements in 13 major U.S. cities. Some 78 percent of app-based drivers and delivery workers in San Francisco are people of color and 56 percent are immigrants, according to a study by UC Santa Cruz.

“It’s hypocritical. You have a billboard that is purchased by Uber who have created a ballot measure [Proposition 22] that creates no protections for their essential workers who happen to be predominately Black and Brown, and most of them are immigrants,” said Cherri Murphy, a leader of Gig Workers Rising who drove for Lyft until March.

Prop. 22 seeks to exempt app-based workers in California from classification as employees under AB5 but also offers increased benefits for workers including a guaranteed level of minimum earnings, compensating drivers for 30 cents per each mile driven, and funding for new health benefits for drivers who work at least 15 hours a week, among other benefits.

However, according to a study from the UC Berkeley Labor Center, Uber and Lyft drivers in California would earn $5.64 an hour on average after all expenses were accounted for, due to provisions in the ballot measure. Both Uber and Lyft have also stated that being forced to classify their drivers as employees would devastate their business model, and Lyft has threatened to leave California if forced to reclassify drivers.

Murphy said she believes that Uber’s publicly stated commitments to racial justice are intended as a smokescreen to protect their reputation as a progressive company as they try to circumvent classifying drivers as employees and granting them labor protections such as paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and reimbursement for business expenses by passing Prop 22. As of Tuesday, total funding for Prop 22 exceeded $181 million, making it the most expensive ballot measure campaign in California’s history.

“Nothing about that sign says they are for Black lives. They don’t understand that racial justice is economic justice. The same conditions that kill Black and Brown people are the same conditions that exploit Black and Brown workers…it’s not by accident that a majority of those who are impacted by COVID-19 happen to be people of color,” said Murphy.

Mekela Edwards, an organizer with We Drive Progress and an Uber driver until stopping in March, said that Uber’s advertisement is offensive because it uses the trauma Black Americans suffer as a way to bolster their reputation, presenting itself as committed to racial justice while working to undermine labor protections for their drivers.

“How wonderful is it that Uber has the gall to exploit the emotions of Black people with this billboard. While I am disappointed, I am not surprised because gig companies like Uber have been exploiting drivers for years now,” said Edwards.

Edwards said that the lack of worker protections for drivers, especially those who are at risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19, forces drivers to make a terrible choice: either keep driving and risk exposing themselves to the virus, or face extreme financial hardship. Edwards, who suffers from asthma, has a 15 percent chance of dying if she contracts COVID-19, and has therefore been in self-quarantine and unable to work since March.

“I and countless other drivers have been faced with the same impossible choice. We either keep driving to make ends meet and risk getting sick or even dying, or we stop working. These are the only choices that gig companies like Uber has left us with,” said Edwards.

In addition to launching the billboard ad campaign, Uber has promised to double the number of Black employees in leadership and pledged to invest $10 million towards Black-owned businesses, among other commitments. Murphy, however, believes that gig companies such as Uber can only truly be allies with communities of color by classifying drivers as employees.

“You need to follow the law and qualify us as employees. We are classified as employees according to the Dynamex decision, the state Legislature, and the attorney general,” said Murphy.

Uber did not respond to requests for comment.


  1. I don’t see an edit button, so just want to add I meant to type just Vit D, not cVit D! Vit D blood levels btw are best at 50 and up. Anything below 30 is low.

  2. There may be more wiggle room re staying healthy. We can boost our immune system majorly! Take Vit C to tolerance, also cVit D, other vitamins and minerals, glutathione, turmeric, eat mushrooms, eat healthy diet, eat low sugar, etc etc.
    China and S Korea have successfully stopped covid-19 in patients with high-dose IV VIt C. That’s a natural treatment. They just finished clinical trials in Shanghai and we’re waiting to read the report. We can strengthen our immune systems too. Viruses and bacteria have been around on the planet for longer than we have and that’s why we have immune systems.

Comments are closed.

More by this author

Gig workers aren’t getting the healthcare they were promised

Survey shows that most rideshare and delivery drivers are unable to access the benefits under Prop. 22

AAA insurance agents in California are seeking to unionize

Complaints about pay and working conditions drive effort to form a union among giant nonprofit's insurance employees.

City College students fight back against brutal faculty cuts

Firing teachers could also mean the end of a lot of treasured programs.

A ‘double celebration:’ Unionization moves forward at two local companies

Dandelion Chocolate workers hope to join Tartine Bakery workers, who just won a contested election for union representation.

Thousands rally against hate crimes

Large turnout for event focused on anti-Asian violent incidents.

Most read

Opinion: AIDS denialism in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

In 2000, the Foo Fighters embraced the kind of anti-science thinking we still see today. It's time they apologized.

Not one dollar of state rent-relief money has arrived in SF

Hundreds of millions in federal funding is available -- but tenants aren't getting it.

Big Telecom giveaway bills head for state Assembly votes

Plus: Measure to limit CEQA appeals goes before supes and a rally to limit supportive housing rents. That's The Agenda for May 17-23

What happened to Halston? New doc dives deep into designer’s story

In Halston, the new biopic about the visionary American fashion designer, director Frédéric Tcheng makes every effort to remain objective when portraying the contentious...

Can people paying rent for a parking space be evicted for living in cars?

Caltrans is about to try to remove people from a lot under I-80.

You might also likeRELATED