Lenny Sanchez, co-organizer of the Chicago Rideshare Advocates, didn’t think a second rally outside City Hall would ever happen.
“I thought initially our first action was going to be our last action,” said Sanchez, referring to the group’s September rally.
Instead, the grassroots organization has lasted longer than he thought since starting in August. It has held rallies at O’Hare International Airport and at Lyft and Uber hubs in the city. Now, it has scheduled another City Hall rally for Wednesday.
“I have this responsibility to try and do this,” said Sanchez, who has driven for both Uber and Lyft since 2015.
Wednesday’s event, another chance to unite ride-hailing drivers and bring awareness to their mission, is planned for 9 a.m. It will coincide with a Chicago City Council budget hearing.
Sanchez and his co-organizers want the city to take action in the wake of recent pay decreases and changes to an already-confusing system of surge and airport pricing.
“There’s very little money in this anymore,” said Sanchez, 39, of Des Plaines.
After expenses, Sanchez used to clear bout $20 an hour driving during the week, and on weekends around $40 an hour. He would like to bring home $800 to $1,200 a week to help support his family — though he used to make closer to $1,500 a week, working the same 20 to 30 hours.
“If I’m getting to $1,000, I’m really happy,” Sanchez said. “If I’m getting $600, I’m not surprised.”
More safety regulations and increased transparency from the ride-hailing companies are also top priorities for the group. They don’t want to see ride-hailing go away; they just want more equitable management, they say.
Sanchez used to work in medical sales; he started driving for Uber because “they were a young tech company, and they were trending upwards.” He said he has been threatened, had a gun pulled on him by a passenger and been falsely accused of driving while intoxicated.
The Chicago Rideshare Advocates have partnered with LegalRideshare, a Chicago-based law firm dedicated to cases involving ride-hailing drivers and passengers.
Jared Hoffa, business development manager for LegalRideshare, said they want to be a resource for drivers in the city and have converted part of their Wrigleyville office into a drivers’ lounge, with coffee and free wi-fi.
“We’re not protesters,” Hoffa said. “We’re supporting the community and industry.”
Another concern for Chicago Rideshare Advocates: the number of drivers is increasing but demand for rides isn’t. They want a cap for drivers similar to one in New York City.
Lyft responded when Rideshare Advocates reached out; Uber, they say, did not.
“We have invested in ways to reduce expenses, boost earnings and help [drivers] reach their goals,” a Lyft spokesperson said. “The trust and safety of our community is our top priority, and we actively engage our drivers in conversation on the best places and ways to earn as well as new product advancements.”
In a statement, Uber said: “We are continuously working to make earnings more consistent and dependable for drivers, while making our service more reliable anytime someone needs a ride.”
Since forming in August, the Chicago Rideshare Advocates has gathered about 900 signatures on a petition; another 400 have signed online. Their goal is to get 10,000 ride-hailing drivers to sign; then, Sanchez said, they’ll bring the petition to City Council.
“We feel like the political temperature, the political climate, is ripe for change,” Sanchez said.