Cherri Murphy | Special to California Black Media Partners
We are the workers who power the core of your businesses and we write in response to your recent comments on the Black Lives Matter movement. Your statements have included various platitudes about your commitment to racial justice and the Black community. We are not fooled. Your lip service in support of Black Lives is hollow, created by well-paid public relations teams, and absent of any promise of real change.
Lyft has been my primary source of income for the past three years and I’ve driven over 12,000 rides. A survey by the University of California Santa Cruz suggests 70% of rideshare drivers are African Americans and other People of Color, 50% are immigrants, and, because of company greed, only 31% say they could find $400 in an emergency.
Racial justice is economic justice. The conditions that make police killings of Black people possible and inevitable are the same conditions that make the exploitation of Black and Brown workers possible and inevitable. We reject your attempts to separate racial justice from economic justice and we see it as an attempt to dodge your responsibility for the exploitation of your Black and Brown workers everyday.
This fight is not only about police killings and terror — it is about every institution that exploits and abuses Black and Brown people in this country. When it comes to exploiting Black and brown people, you and your companies are experts.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, gig workers were faced with a devil’s choice: Continue working despite a deadly virus or risk losing the roof over our heads. When we attempted to secure masks, hand sanitizer, paid sick time off, unemployment wages, and other protective measures we found obstacles, opaque processes, and hand wringing. We had to turn to outside organizations — and each other — for safety during the pandemic. Where were you then?
The Black gig workers who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic have been the hardest hit economically and the most likely to die from the virus, yet your companies have done nothing to ensure our welfare. There are stories of drivers who have lost their lives, yet your companies once again, were nowhere to be found. Where were you then?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Black gig workers already faced discrimination and abuse on the job. Black gig workers already had no protection from racist consumers who file false complaints and do not tip. Black gig workers already found less support and more discrimination from staff meant to “support” us. Black gig workers already were subject to more policing and harassment from law enforcement on the job everyday. Where were you then
Then, as now, you were stealing from your workers. You pay us starvation wages while you and your executives return to million dollar homes that you built off our backs.
You deny us workers’ compensation and disability insurance if we are injured and you refuse to provide protection from discrimination and retaliation. We work late-night hours, weekends, and holidays away from our families for no overtime pay. You increase rideshare prices in predominately Black and Brown neighborhoods.
Today, until November, Californians will hear from the real experts — the drivers.
We believe from the very depth of our beings that there will be no peace until there is justice.
If you respect Black lives, as your corporate statements so proudly declare, you will respect Black voices and listen to your workers when they say that enough is enough. All labor has dignity. All labor has worth. We demand that you respect ours.
About the Author
Cherri Murphy is a Lyft Driver and social justice activist.