Was the Uber Strike a Dud?

Jon York

Member
Nov 30, 2018
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New York City
Drivers are saying the Uber strike planned for today was a dud. I guess on one hand it was. Apparently everyone kept driving like usual. Or, did they? Let's take a second look. Drivers and media reports are saying when they looked in on the app today - there were cars all over the place. They're also saying there were no surges. (You would certainly expect some big surges if all drivers were indeed striking). So they're taking those pieces of evidence as signs that the strike didn't work - or had no effect.

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However... there's something else to consider and I thought of this when I read a driver's report from Boston. He said there were fewer surges than usual and that made a bell go off in my head. (Fortunately, it has since stopped).

There is another alternative explanation as to why we may have seen what appeared to be the normal number of cars on the road. What else could give us that result? What else could make it look like there were still plenty of cars on the road while surges were less than usual? Well, we would see exactly that result under two conditions:
  1. Most drivers didn't strike and it was business as usual;
  2. A lot of drivers did strike but passengers being aware of it ahead of time had already made alternative plans and didn't attempt to use Uber.
If there were fewer Uber drivers on the road than usual - but passengers knowing that, didn't bother calling an Uber, then you would see the same thing. You'd still see the normal number of cars on the app - and you would see less surging than normal.

Let's say there are normally 100 drivers in a couple of blocks area - and at any one time during morning rush hour - 90 of them are on a trip. That leaves 10 sitting in those couple of blocks. And since 8 is the maximum number of cars Uber shows on the app at any one time anyway - you still see 8 cars. So whether there were 20 cars there or 10 - you'd only see 8 either way. So the fact that people still saw what appeared to be the normal number of cars on the app - doesn't tell us anything at all! It doesn't tell us if it's because there were the same number of drivers as usual (taking the same number of trips). Or, if it was fewer drivers than usual but they were simply less utilized - so the normal 8 cars still showed up.

There's a pretty good chance, since this strike was so well publicized in advance that a lot of passengers arranged for different means for getting to work this morning. I know I sure would have if I had heard about the strike - and I had to be somewhere. So, it is highly possible that although there were no visible signs of the strike succeeding - that it could have hurt Uber in the wallet. But if that's the case - we may never know. Or if we do ever find out - it could be months from now.
 

News Hound

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Jan 7, 2019
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I don't know how big the protests or strikes were - but I do know it doesn't take too many protesters for the media to make it look huge! Not that this one looks huge - but to the average reader it makes it look like a significant number of drivers are very upset.

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Jon York

Member
Nov 30, 2018
104
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What City & State do you work in?
New York City
I wouldn't call it exactly a dud. Slate makes a good point:

It’s true that riders likely had no problem hailing an Uber through their apps on Wednesday, wherever they were. But even if you could get an Uber in three minutes despite the “strike,” it would be hard to call this global labor action a failure. For one thing, the effort attracted a ton of media interest, and it also garnered the support of high-profile politicians on the left, including presidential candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. ...

These callouts aren’t inconsequential, even if Uber didn’t take much of a hit on fares (though we don’t know if that’s the case, and Uber isn’t likely tell us). Consumers may love ride-hailing apps, but the more they become aware that drivers feel they’re getting a raw deal, the more they’ll be receptive to politicians who want to do something about it. If the courts don’t do it first, lawmakers absolutely have the power to turn Uber’s big, thus-far-unprofitable experiment into something that better benefits its workforce.