Monday, April 21, 2014

Taxi Driver: Lyft is as Bad for St. Louis Workers as Walmart, Fast Food

Posted By on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge Umar Lee has worked as a St. Louis taxi driver since 2005. - UMAR LEE
  • Umar Lee
  • Umar Lee has worked as a St. Louis taxi driver since 2005.

St. Louis' newest ride-sharing app Lyft may attract a distinctly hipster and "progressive" clientele, but its business model is as damaging to middle-class workers as big-box stores and fast food restaurants, says one St. Louis taxi driver.

Umar Lee, who has been a cabbie for nearly ten years, penned a fervent response to Lyft's St. Louis launch on the Huffington Post, arguing that the company steals middle-class jobs that pay living wages from taxi drivers -- many of whom are minorities or immigrants -- and turns them into low-wage, part-time gigs for semi-affluent white hipster kids.

See also: Lyft Never Told New Drivers It's Technically Illegal, Not Licensed in St. Louis

"Lyft and Uber are part of the Walmartization of America, part-time workers earning fast-food wages," says Lee, who works more than ten hours a day, six or seven days a week. "These drivers are in a very real sense akin to scab workers, and like the companies they drive for, represent regression and not progression."

click to enlarge The first Lyft driver is cited by police on Friday night in front of city hall. - LINDSAY TOLER
  • Lindsay Toler
  • The first Lyft driver is cited by police on Friday night in front of city hall.

Lyft touts itself as subverting the transportation scenes in major cities, offering a new option for people who want to minimize their carbon footprint, live without a car or just get a safe ride home after a night on the town. But Lee calls Lyft's set-up "a brutal economic model," something out of a pre-labor-movement society.

"There's nothing remotely progressive about their vision for society," Lee tells Daily RFT. "Outside of all the irony and the sarcasm, at the end of the day it's very 19th century." Lyft is technically illegal in St. Louis, and St. Louis police cited a driver less than two hours into Lyft's weekend launch.

See also: Lyft Driver Cited By St. Louis Police Says He Wasn't Doing Anything Wrong

But the real problem isn't Lyft's business model, Lee says. It's how little St. Louisans understand one another.

"There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about who actually catches cabs," Lee writes. "In a city with the 'Delmar Divide,' where black and white don't mix as much as we should and the poor and the rich mix even less, people tend to not know a lot about each other's lives."

Continue reading to see why taxi driver Umar Lee thinks Lyft is elitist and will end up hurting St. Louis' working poor.

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