Saving straw or trap: immigrants talked about their work at Uber and Lyft - ForumDaily
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Saving straw or trap: immigrants talk about their work at Uber and Lyft

Part-time work at Uber and Lyft for immigrants is almost the only option for official work at first. But many drivers feel trapped by long hours and low pay, reports Insider.

One woman, hand of a woman using mobile app on smart phone on the street.

Photo: iStock.com/it:South_agency

Rodolfo has completed over 18 Uber rides in South Florida and has a near perfect rating. And yet he feels trapped. We wrote about how much taxi drivers in the USA earn in our article.

He said adjusting to life in the United States after moving from Venezuela five years ago has been “extremely difficult.” He considered working for Uber and Lyft to be practically his only option, since he did not have the necessary immigration documents and English language skills for higher-paying jobs. Read about how Uber deducted $30 from tourists' accounts for one short trip. here.

On the subject: First part-time job for immigrants: Hertz rents cars to work at Uber

As the Venezuelan said, life has become easier since he started driving a car. His work brings him satisfaction. He drives people to doctor's appointments and helps older Americans with errands. His job allows him to interact with dozens of people a day.

However, he needs to work harder. Some weeks, Rodolfo drives 50-60 hours, but earns only $800-$900 before gas and expenses.

He has seen many immigrants become drivers, and the increased competition is hurting his salary. It became more difficult for him to get higher paying orders. The Venezuelan is forced to agree to all trips, including those for $4 or $5, which do not pay off.

For many immigrants, part-time work is the only source of income they can find, says Katie Wells, a scholar at Georgetown University.

“This issue of migration and the gig economy is not just playing out here. It shows up all over the world for migrant workers,” Wells said.

What taxi companies do for immigrants

Major taxi companies are committed to supporting immigrant drivers. According to an Uber spokesperson, they have a partnership with language learning platform Rosetta Stone, as well as a strategic partnership with the International Rescue Committee in support of their global refugee assistance programs.

The company said it offers personal support in multiple languages ​​for drivers and couriers, and its app supports all languages ​​available on iOS or Android phones. Uber, among other things, assists various US federal government refugee resettlement partners to “help them access essential goods and services through rides and deliveries.”


A Lyft spokesman said the company represents a low-barrier financial entry for many people "trying to settle into a new place." The company is committed to improving pay and app transparency, he said, and is offering Lyft Rewards drivers discounts on the online language learning app Mango Languages.

Experts spoke with immigrant Uber and Lyft drivers who moved to South Florida from Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti and Venezuela.

Many said they were grateful that the platforms could help them rebuild their lives. However, most of them identified some challenges, such as not making enough money and driving in a competitive environment, language barriers, lack of adequate travel support, and feeling like they couldn't leave the platform because there were no other options.

Immigrants feel forced to earn extra money

Over the past few years, immigration has helped the U.S. economic recovery. Between January 2023 and January 2024, about 50% of labor market growth came from foreign-born workers.

Recently, we have seen an increase in the number of immigrant drivers on apps. Some taxi drivers say they have seen immigrant drivers using fake accounts or borrowing existing accounts from other drivers. Some passengers admitted to feeling unsafe when the driver did not look like his profile photo on the platform.

Wells said many immigrants are attracted to driving platforms because of the quick hiring opportunities. They don't need a good knowledge of English - they just need a driver's license and a car to start working. Although this allows many drivers to make money, there are certain risks.

“It's really risky for people who don't understand the terms of work, don't understand the risks involved in doing this type of service, but these platforms don't seem to generally care about that,” Wells said.

Immigrants find it difficult to find work other than taxis

In Venezuela, 60-year-old Edgar owned an auto parts business. This helped him stay afloat. But when he came to Miami five years ago to escape the country's economic collapse, he quickly realized it wouldn't be easy to sell his skills.

When Edgar first arrived, he did not have the necessary legal documents to find a permanent job. This changed when Venezuelan immigrants were granted Temporary Protected Status.

He couldn't find a managerial position and said his age was a barrier to breaking into the industry. Although the immigrant maintains his business in Venezuela, he spends less time on it. More than two years ago, the Venezuelan started working for Uber and Lyft as a part-time job and enjoyed being his own boss.

“Usually people like me retire and don’t work full time,” Edgar noted. “With my skills, it’s hard to find a job.”

For the past few years, he has been driving 40 to 50 hours a week, mostly Monday through Friday. He supports three children who are in college or working.

According to income reports, Edgar earns between $700 and $800 a week, which drops to between $400 and $500 after subtracting the cost of gas and other expenses.

“My earnings are lower because Uber pays less per mile than last year,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition for this job now.”

D., a Haitian immigrant, has been driving taxis for seven years. He moved to the US ten years ago. D. said that he enjoys driving a car, although it does not give him the level of financial security he desires. He drives a car six days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 16:00 p.m. On a good day, he can earn $300 to $400 before expenses. He had a lot of hard days driving in Miami that left him stressed, but he couldn't find another job.

“You have to do it anyway, otherwise you won’t have anything,” he concluded. “You just have to keep fighting.”

Many of the same factors apply to children of immigrants. Alex, 32, was born and raised in South Florida to parents who fled El Salvador. He was raised to work hard, but had no opportunity to pursue higher education or get an office job. His English is not perfect and his work history does not meet the requirements for white collar positions.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New Y

To support himself and his family, Alex started working one to two days a week for Uber and as an Amazon Flex driver in February. On average, he says he makes $150 a day from Uber after expenses. The Salvadoran said he earns more every day with Amazon Flex, which pays hourly and provides overtime.

Alternative

Most immigrants applied for a variety of jobs, from maintenance and construction jobs to positions in restaurants and retail.

They were unable to find employment. Some suspect this is due to a language barrier, lack of proper documentation, or limited work experience.

For example, Eliezer, an Uber driver from Nicaragua with a nearly 5,0-star rating over two years, said he doesn't know how long he'll work as a taxi driver. He didn't have any offers from other jobs.

The Nicaraguan admitted that his earnings are not enough to live comfortably, but he does not know what other job he can get with his resume and experience. Eliezer prefers traveling around Miami Beach and works 70 hours a week.

“I don’t want to be a driver all my life, but this job allows me to travel to my home country or other countries. I don’t have to ask permission when I want to go home,” the Nicaraguan said, referring to the request for leave.

Some immigrants have successfully found other jobs and started using driving as an additional income. This allowed them to live more comfortably.

Carlos, who immigrated from Venezuela, drives part-time. He works in real estate - this is his main job.

Nicanor, who left Cuba in 1997 for New York and then Miami, drives for Uber several days a month. He drives a truck full-time. He enjoys the occasional part-time job, which brings in a few hundred dollars a month and companionship.

“I don’t want to stay in the house and be alone,” he explained, noting that he doesn’t have many loved ones in the United States.

For Kaylis, a young mother and recent immigrant from Cuba, driving for Uber was, as she said in Spanish, “the best thing that ever happened to me.” When she first came to the United States, she was employed in another job that was not as financially stable. Now she enjoys being her own boss.

She said she makes about $1200 a week driving around downtown Miami. Her income is quite stable.

Still, Kaylis isn't confident she'll have enough saved for a comfortable retirement.

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