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Some Uber Drivers Strike To Protest Company's Fare Cuts

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- More than 100 Uber drivers upset about the company's recent fare cuts went on strike Monday, and they've urged all other drivers to join them.

The striking drivers said Uber continues to cut into their earnings without cutting into its own take from each ride. They say the company needs to either raise the fares again, lower its commission, or ideally both, CBS2's Diane Macedo reported.

Uber cut its prices by 15 percent last week, saying the fare reduction would mean more work for drivers. The base fare on UberX dropped from $3 to $2.55, with the per mile rate going from $2.15 to $1.75. UberXL saw drops of similar levels.

The striking drivers chanted "Shame on Uber" and "Respect the Drivers" at a protest Monday outside Uber's office in Long Island City, 1010 WINS' Sonia Rincon reported. Many protesters held signs saying, "We made you billionaires, you're making us homeless."

"Uber used to charge $3 a mile. There used to be 10 percent commission," said Uber driver Inder Parmer. "They dropped the price to $2.55. The commission was increased to 20 percent. Now the commission is getting increased to 25 percent, and the price is getting dropped by another 15 percent. I would just ask American public if their salary is decreased by 45 percent in two years, how will they feel?"

Josh Mohrer, Uber New York general manager, said more demand will mean less idle time for drivers.

"That can go down enough. The lower fare's not going to matter. That's basically what we'll be looking for," Mohrer told CBS2. "And also since we cut prices last time, our outer-borough business has more than doubled."

Some drivers agree, while others don't.

"I definitely feel like we're gonna get busy, we're gonna get whatever money we need, and everybody is going to be happy," Adalgisa Sanchez said.

"With these prices, I won't do it. I'm going to quit," driver Rafael Espinal said.

Uber Drivers Strike
Uber drivers upset of fare cuts protest outside the company's Queens office on Feb. 1, 2016. (Credit: Sonia Rincon/1010 WINS)

Uber told drivers in a note Sunday night: "Partners spent 39% less time waiting for a trip while online this weekend when compared to two weekends ago. Our goal was to turn your unpaid time online into paid time, and we have already seen a 20% increase in hourly earnings for partners."

But some drivers say that has not been their experience.

"Yesterday I drove like about 10 hours, and I barely make a hundred dollars for myself," one driver told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell.

Complicating matters is that some drivers feel locked into Uber because they are financing their vehicles.

"When we get into the Uber business, we have to buy a car, so I have five years more to pay the car," said driver Juan Batista.

Uber offers financing assistance for cars, but drivers say some of those plans come with high interest rates, and while they seemed sensible when drivers were making more money, now those drivers feel trapped.

"I see guys who have big cars that cost $20,000 pay $60,000," said driver Felix Melo. "They're just sucked into this for the next five years."

Monday's protest was being staged by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which said the fare cut is a failed attempted to monopolize taxi service that plain and simple cuts wages for some of the lowest-paid New Yorkers, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

The Taxi Workers Alliance also said the impact of the fare cuts will extend far beyond Uber.

"Once you have a large player in the industry lower its rates, then there's a desperation for everybody to start lowering their rates," co-founder Bhairavi Desai. "So what happens to the drivers? How are people expected to survive?"

Uber said if after a few months the price cuts don't work out, they will go back to the old prices, but drivers weighing in on a Facebook page organizing the strike said they can't afford the experiment and want the prices back now.

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