As a ride-share driver, Mattia Nanfria said she has been propositioned and even been attacked by riders. What’s more, her wages fluctuate widely — but in bad weeks she earns less than minimum wage.
“The weeks where I’m clearing $10 to $12 an hour, that’s what I lose sleep over,” said Nanfria, 41, of Dunning, who says she has completed 15,000 rides for Lyft and Uber in the past four years.
Her concerns about the working conditions led her to become a co-organizer of Chicago Rideshare Advocates, a group that is trying to unite the thousands of drivers in the city to negotiate better pay and working conditions for the fast-growing profession.
The organization held a demonstration outside City Hall last week — “Uber/Lyft Stop Abusing Workers,” one sign at the protest read — and is headed to the O’Hare Transportation Network Providers’ parking lot from 7-10 p.m. on Monday to rally and connect with more drivers.
The grassroots group has greatly ramped up its advocacy in the past month, as, organizers say, conditions for drivers have worsened. They are looking to cap the number of drivers in the city, increase driver wages and increase safety protections for drivers.
“Nobody wants to ban Uber and Lyft. Nobody wants that,” said Eli Martin, another co-organizer of Chicago Rideshare Advocates. “We all like this, we just have to make it work better.”
Martin, of Elgin, has been driving for Uber and Lyft for about five years and said there are just too many drivers now to make decent wages. Drivers also said they are receiving less money from surge pricing and working at the airport than they did in the past.
As of December, there were more than 68,000 active registered Transportation Network Drivers in Chicago, according to data from the city’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection office. The number has more than tripled since March 2015.
Chicago Rideshare Advocates wants the city to pass legislation similar to what was approved in New York City that caps the number of drivers, including for taxis and limos, too. It also allows the city to set a minimum wage. Chicago aldermen recently have proposed increasing the average wage for drivers, which is $11.53 an hour after expenses.
The ride-share companies have opposed caps as well as income requirements. In a statement Lyft said, “The vast majority of drivers in Chicago drive part time, recognizing the tremendous benefits that driving with Lyft offers. This is why the regulations passed in New York City would be even more damaging in Chicago.”
An Uber spokesperson said, “An arbitrary cap on rideshare would restrict access to transportation options for residents —particularly on the South and West sides — turning back the clock to the old system where only some parts of Chicago were served.”
The city did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
Nanfria said when she started driving for Uber in October 2014, it was the perfect part-time job while she went to school. But as she increased her hours, her wages varied widely. While on a good week she can earn $800-$1,000, during other weeks she makes half of that or less.
Meanwhile, she’s felt concerned for her safety. While she’s reported problem riders to dispatches, she doesn’t know what happened to them. The advocates want the companies to do more to verify the identity of riders and protect drivers.
“For all I know, they did nothing, which is a little disturbing,” she said.
Lyft said it has a safety team available around the clock for emergencies.
“Safety is Lyft’s top priority,” the company said.