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Ride-hailing drivers ask companies for more protection

The Independent Drivers Guild Chicago asked for more protection in light of last month’s murder of an Uber driver in Lawndale.

The Independent Drivers Guild Chicago gathered in protest, calling on Uber, Lyft and other ride share companies to do more to protect them.
The Independent Drivers Guild Chicago gathered in protest Friday, calling on Uber, Lyft and other ride share companies to do more to protect them.
Zinya Salfiti / Chicago Sun-Times

Drivers for ride-hailing companies Friday called on their employers for more protection following last month’s murder of an Uber driver in Lawndale.

The Independent Drivers Guild Chicago is asking Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing business to require passengers to upload a photo of their drivers’ licenses, state IDs or passports to their account profiles.

They are also asking that passengers be mandated to upload a “selfie” before starting a trip and for the installation of a voice-activated panic button that would allow drivers to alert police if they are attacked.

“Uber can easily implement these common-sense measures,” said Kevin Nelson, who organized Friday’s demonstration at Uber’s Greenlight Hub, at 1401 W North Ave.

“As a driver, we’ve all had to submit our license, insurance, have background checks run on us, so they can’t say that the technology doesn’t exist to be able to do it.... They are failing and they are refusing.”

Hortencia Ramos, cousin of Javier Ramos, speaks at a rally organized by the Independent Drivers Guild Chicago. Javier Ramos’ father (left) and other family members were also present.
Hortencia Ramos, cousin of Javier Ramos, speaks at a rally organized by the Independent Drivers Guild Chicago. Javier Ramos’ father (left) and other family members were also present.
Zinya Salfiti / Chicago Sun-Times

Although riders are encouraged, they are not required to upload a photo to their accounts. So in most cases, drivers can only view the passenger’s name and rating before accepting a ride.

The drivers also said there has been a noticeable surge in prices and decrease of available drivers because of the coronavirus pandemic and increase in carjackings.

Ja’Mal Green, who joined the drivers Friday, said, “What we are asking for is sensible... to stop the corporate greed and understand that those who are helping you, who are helping to enrich you. They should get the real support that they need.”

Uber launched the “Safety ToolKit” emergency in-app in 2018 and recently added a 911 feature that sends location, license plate, and car model to a dispatcher, according to Uber. Lyft also has an emergency help feature that connects drivers with ADT Security Services.

The Independent Drivers Guild Chicago gathered in protest at Uber’s Greenlight Hub, 1401 W North Ave., where drivers for ride-hailing companies called on their employers for more protection.
The Independent Drivers Guild Chicago gathered in protest at Uber’s Greenlight Hub, 1401 W North Ave., where drivers for ride-hailing companies called on their employers for more protection.
Zinya Salfiti / Chicago Sun-Times

Bryant Greening, co-founder of the LegalRideshare law firm, said for years drivers have been “harassed, battered, assaulted, murdered.”

“Everyday we have to tell them that we’re trying to make policy change, we’re trying to talk to legislators, we’re trying to talk to City Council,” Greening said. “They [ride-hailing companies] should be active in this process...cooperating with law makers...changing their apps... changing their policies....Enough is enough.”

Javier Ramos, a 46-year-old ride-hailing driver, was shot to death by a passenger who carjacked him late last month in the 3700 block of West Douglas Boulevard, police said.

Friday, Ramos’ cousin, Hortencia Ramos, said the family has yet to receive a phone call or condolences from Uber.

She said even a few words “to help a grieving father and family” and “to help us find the person or people who did this” would have been appreciated.