On Tuesday, June 21, all taxi cab drivers in San Francisco are going on strike. Planned for one day, drivers will either circle their cars around City Hall in protest or keep their vehicles parked. Uber, the company that calls itself "Everyone's Private Driver," is planning to take advantage of the strike for some good PR.
Of course, good PR is in the eye of the beholder. Users can request an Uber vehicle from any mobile phone, via text message, or iPhone and Android apps. Fares are charged to your credit card on file, with the tip included. However, Uber is also much more expensive than a taxi ... except for Tuesday.
Uber announced on its blog that it will cut fares by 50 percent on Tuesday. That, the company says, puts their fares at taxi cab prices. According to Uber, the company has taken the following steps to make this work :a) the company asked drivers to take a 1-day pay cut, and b) Uber will give its entire cut of any revenues to their driver partners to "soften the blow" of the fare decrease.
It ought to be interesting to see how this plays off. For one, Uber and San Francisco have been at each other's throats for a while. SF threatened Uber with legal action, for a number of reasons, including the fact that Uber operates pretty much like a cab company, but does not have a taxi license. Additionally, Uber's cars don’t have insurance which is equivalent to those of taxis. Finally, limos in U.S. cities generally, by law, have to pre-book an hour in advance, while licensed taxis can pick up folks immediately (which is where the lack of a taxi license comes in again).
In fact, Uber changed its name from Ubercab for these reasons.
Also, as you might expect, Uber and its drivers have already have the word "scab" attached to them. So the PR that Uber might receive from this "promotion" is both good, and bad.
The strike centers around a ruling from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency that allows cab companies to charge drivers 5 percent for each credit card transaction. Additional issues include privacy concerns about new electronic waybilling equipment, and plans to add television screens in the back seat, which would air advertisements.
Some believe participation will be widespread. Others feel only a few hundred drivers will strike, and only for a few hours.
Either way, Uber's cut rates run Tuesday, June 21st, from 4am until midnight.