Miguel Abreu was making progress in realizing his dreams. He’d recently obtained citizenship in the United States, and after seven years of working as an Uber driver, he was taking the next step to open his own business with Uber Black.
As Uber Black has specific requirements for the type of vehicles drivers can register for the more exclusive service, Abreu purchased a Chevy Tahoe for $80,000 and a Mercedes for $90,000.
He also obtained a commercial driver’s license, as required for Uber Black. He found a business partner and thought he was well on his way to becoming an entrepreneur.
Then, Uber deactivated his account without warning. Abreu was asked to send a photograph of his location to Uber, who claimed the metadata showed he was at a different location than reported.
The location Uber claimed was a remote island inaccessible by car, however, Abreu states Uber was not concerned over the impossibility of their claim.
According to Market Watch, Abreu tried contacting the company multiple times, but they were unmoving in their stance.
“How could that be,” Abreu said, “You know I’m an Uber Black driver. I bought this expensive car; I got a commercial license. I shouldn’t just be deactivated.”
Eventually, Abreu’s account with Uber was restored after a journalist from Market Watch contacted the company for comment.
It might seem like an isolated incident, but stories like Abreu’s are becoming more common as the ride program increases in popularity with people searching for a way to make ends meet.
The Asian Law Caucus and Rideshare Drivers United published a report in February detailing just how negatively drivers are feeling about their working conditions.
The report revealed that two-thirds of drivers experienced account suspension, that immigrants and individuals of color suffered the highest rate of deactivation, and that a full 30 percent of deactivated drivers stated they received no explanation.
Uber has not commented on the report, but drivers are beginning to make their discontent known.
Ride-share drivers for Uber and Lyft, the two largest ride share companies, organized a strike at LaGuardia Airport in February over unfair fees and account deactivations.
In Saugus, Massachusetts, drivers staged a protest outside of Uber headquarters on March 1, in support of HD2071 and SD1162 (Rideshare Driver’s Justice Bill).
In the past, Uber and Lyft have been protected from legal maneuvers from terminated drivers due to the independent contracting clause drivers sign. That may soon change, as legislation has approved the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO Act).
Supported by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Rideshare Drivers United, if the act passes Senate, employer, and employee could be redefined and drivers will have the right to unionize as well as gain termination protections.