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With Spike In Chicago Carjackings, Rideshare Drivers Rally For Protections For Their Safety

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A fresh spike in carjackings has been seen across the city – and rideshare drivers who pick up passenger after passenger say they are worried.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported Wednesday night, the rideshare drivers are demanding change.

The list of the demands from the Chicago Gig Alliance is lengthy. Earning a living wage and staying safe on the job tops their list.

"We need safety on the job so we know we won't get robbed," Lori Simmons of the Chicago Gig Alliance led rideshare drivers in a chant.

It is a cry for safety coming from those who drive for Uber and Lyft.

"They don't really do much to prevent people from carjacking us," said rideshare driver Eli Martin.

Martin has spent the last seven years earning a living as a rideshare driver. On Wednesday, he joined fellow drivers outside the Uber Greenlight hub at 1401 W. North Ave., demanding more from rideshare companies.

"It's not like if I feel endangered, I just can't work," Martin said. "I think if you talk to most gig workers, they're in the same position. Just because you don't feel safe doesn't mean you don't have bills."

There is a reason why they are worried. Carjackings have been spiking dramatically in 2021 compared with the average for the past five years.

Carjackings Graph
(Credit: CBS 2)

Through March of this year, Chicago saw 425 carjackings – more than double than the same period in 2020, when there were 198.

Chicago Police do not separate how many of the carjacking victims were rideshare drivers. But the gig workers believe they make up a large percentage of victims – and they are still thinking about Javier Ramos, who was killed last month by an Uber passenger in the Lawndale neighborhood.

The murder is still unsolved.

"Essentially, we want all accounts to be verified," said Lori Simmons of the Gig Workers Alliance.

Uber recently made it mandatory for new accounts using anonymous forms of payment to upload an ID.

The gig workers want all riders to upload pictures just as drivers themselves do.

"Their technology works quick," Martin said. "You take a picture of yourself, it lets me drive. Passengers should have to the same thing, and that will reduce a lot of crime and attacks."

The rideshare companies consider drivers contract workers and not employees – and that makes their demand for safety and a better wage an uphill battle.

"They try to pretend we're not here, and we're just going to make sure they remember we are their workers - whether they claim us or not," Simmons said.

The gig workers are hoping to get lawmakers involved to convince or mandate the companies listen to their demands.

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