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Ride-hailing drivers to demonstrate at City Hall Wednesday, turn off app

A driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield. | AP file photo

Hundreds of ride-hailing drivers plan to converge on City Hall Wednesday afternoon to rally for higher wages and, in a show of solidarity, thousands of others plan to stop picking up passengers.

The City Hall demonstration is being coordinated by Chicago Rideshare Advocates, a non-profit group of about 400 Chicago ride-hail drivers.

Eli Solomon Martin, 36, an Uber driver who heads the group, said he organized the effort in conjunction with a similar group in Los Angeles who took things a step further and organized a work stoppage.

“The group out in L.A. is about 10 times our size so they decided to strike,” Martin said. “We here in Chicago were just planning a demonstration, but now we’re hearing from a lot of drivers who want to walk off in solidarity and to that we say: awesome, we love it, it’s not something we asked for, but hey, it’s cool.”

Word of the Chicago and L.A. events spread online and drivers in nearly 30 cities in the United States and internationally are now planning to take similar actions, Martin said.

Pointing to numerous posts on several Facebook groups dedicated to ride-hailing drivers, Martin estimated several thousand drivers in Chicago planned to stop giving rides Wednesday.

Martin said customers could feel the effect, but it’s unlikely anyone seeking a ride will be too put off.

At last glance there were more than 80,000 ride-hailing drivers in Chicago, he said.

Martin’s group wants to see Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot put a cap on the number of ride-hailing vehicles allowed to operate in Chicago, a ban on those vehicles from out-of-state and hold ride-hailing companies accountable to a wage standard.

Measures enacted by New York City could serve as a road map for Chicago, he said.

Last August, New York enacted a one-year moratorium on new ride-hailing licenses while industry studies play out.

Chicago Rideshare Advocates also want Chicago to mimic a minimum pay requirement for ride-hailing drivers that kicked in this year in New York.

Statements given to the Chicago Sun-Times from Uber and Lyft did not directly address the concerns of the ride-hailing groups.

A 29-year-old Uber driver from Lincoln Square who only wanted to be identified as Maggie said Tuesday that she was leaning towards attending the demonstration, but if she couldn’t go, she’d definitely stop giving rides to show solidarity.

Several other Uber drivers hadn’t heard about their colleagues’ plans.

“It’s hard to reach everyone,” Martin said, noting that his group is not union. “We don’t have a list with everyone’s name.” Instead he relies heavily on social media and volunteers who’ve been passing out flyers at a staging area near O’Hare Airport where ride-hail drivers wait between jobs.

Martin said that he’d been in touch with members of Lightfoot’s campaign staff and hopes to speak with them again after she’s sworn in May 20.