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

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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."

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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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77 comments
LaurenSteiner
LaurenSteiner

Interesting, because I just read an article about Lyft hiring chief Obama strategist David Plouffe, and the headline was slanted the same way. Listen, I am a political activist fighting for the 99% in LA. But right now I am battling unions on two fronts, one is in fighting for a ban on fracking. The Building Trades Unions support it, and they have gotten the Labor Council to go along with them so as not to break solidarity. The IBEW is also trying to kill Community Choice Energy programs which would use more green power and save money for consumers. The second is trying to pass the Disclose Act where an ad would have to disclose the source of any funding over $50,000. Obviously the Koch Brothers are against this. But do you know who will probably kill it? The SEIU. 


Regarding this issue. I have taken Uber twice and Lyft twice and the service and the prices are much better. But to the point of this author's article, he is inconsistent. First he says hipsters are just a small part of the business, and that the majority of people who use taxis are elderly, working poor and homeless. Then he says that Lyft will only funnel off the first category and thus hurt their business. How can it hurt their business if the first category is so minimal? Further, since Lyft is significantly cheaper than a taxi, then it would be better for the second category to have cheaper prices, wouldn't it? 


I won't shop in Walmart for all the usual reasons. But at the same time, I don't like to be ripped off. I think taxis are a rip off. A good number of the drivers are surly to rude. At the airport in LA, you have to wait 10-30 minutes sometimes to get a cab, whereas Lift drivers come within five minutes. 


Some of the "fees" which cause taxis to be more expensive, such as the $4 fee the LA airport charges is BS. Why should taxi riders bear the brunt of funding the airport anymore than someone being picked up by a relative? The only reason the new subway stops right before the airport is because of the taxi drivers union. That is total BS. I am in favor of unions in general. But not everything they do is good.


Finally, think about this. Lyft does give an opportunity for people in their 20s to pick up some extra money, since their bachelors degrees and masters degrees are not helping them get good paying jobs in this economy. 

Courtney Cronin
Courtney Cronin

Right, and $300 million (in financing, not profits or gains) is a stupid thing to compare to Walmart.

RJ Alexander
RJ Alexander

anyone that has friend drop you at airport should be fined and ticketed...

Danny Stevens
Danny Stevens

Of course they are going to say that, they are the ones raping people. Its called competition. Duh. E-Commerce!

Chris Braniff
Chris Braniff

Just another business model. If it works on its own good for them.

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

Taxis are way too expensive and these companies don't want any competition. End of story.

Summair Brohi Baluschi
Summair Brohi Baluschi

Bob Parson fuck yourself don't be racist your fucking family didn't build this country alone. brown black men took an equal part. You are as much foreign fuck as any fucking fresh off the boat immigrant.

Summair Brohi Baluschi
Summair Brohi Baluschi

Uber is worth over 1.2 billion and Lyft is worth 75% of that. Being a Chicago public Chauffer 7+ years I have to butt into the STL talk that erasing small businesses is what these ride share companies are doing. THEY ARE AN ILLEGAL FORM OF CAB SERVICE. Being driven on third party insurance in a non-legal vehicle is not standard. STL taxis go through rigorous forms of inspections every six months and also have signs assigned to them for rates and what not. Stupid people who support Uber and lyft don't understand that by law taxis drivers get trained to drive disable passengers, people who are blind. Thier vehicles have to pass a test to do this as well. I don't understand why would you an to ride in a old scrumpy next door neighbour dudes car instead of dealing with person who is licensed and has commercial insurance.

Ira Eugene
Ira Eugene

yeah this is totally an exaggeration. st. louis taxi drivers need some competition so they can have fair pricing. with the cost of living so cheap there is NO reason for exorbitant cab prices. it cost more money to take a cab here than in NYC

Umar Lee
Umar Lee

Courtney Cronin a little start-up....based in San Francisco with over $300 million raised by international financiers.

Stephanie Kelley
Stephanie Kelley

Hey stupid. YOU are a scab! You are non-union. No job security or protection. You do not make minimum...or ANY wage. If you are afraid of competition...up your game. I have been a cab driver (1 year) and I have been a professional UNION driver for over 12 years... Cab service in St.Louis is ridiculous and does not meet my needs. Lyft WOULD meet my needs...not costing $50 for a drive downtown...showing up on time...knowing whose car I was getting into...rating my driver to ASSURE satisfaction...and since they are not required to pay "pro" 6 days a week or work 12 hour shifts... They are more likely to drive safely.

Rick Kohn
Rick Kohn

Talk to any long time cabbie and they'll tell you a couple things like, there's been scab and unlicensed cabs in St Lou for years, the cab commission is as corrupt as DC and unless they own their own cab, the big companies like Laclede and County make all the money. Could be the worst job there is.

Cheryl Thomas
Cheryl Thomas

Television cut into radio sales, electricity replaced kerosene, cars replaced buggies. It's called free market competition.

perock
perock

You can make $20+ an hour doing lift or uber. I have friends who are full time managers who dont make that.

Philip Rock
Philip Rock

Lower your damn rates and be more available and maybe ill believe you.

Douglas Dial
Douglas Dial

It's like tryin to run Strange Donuts out of the area because they don't conform to Dunkin Donuts standards. Oops. Sorry. That isn't a fair comparison. Dunkin Donuts actually has decent donuts.

Chuck Schneebeli
Chuck Schneebeli

Joe Martinez, that is not correct information. I am a union electrician, and have worked at the convention center numerous times over the last 10 years. Total BS. Sometimes, event attendees get mad because they are not allowed to string their own power to where they are set up, and, of course, its the " unions fault". Truth is, two reasons we do it. 1) to maintain public safety, as to not overload circuits and other hazards. 2) 99.9999% of vendors do not an electrical license, and, that is required in the city of STL. So, its another case of bullshitt....

stephinstl
stephinstl

In this instance...cab companies hire scabs everyday. Instead of paying minimum wage...or ANY wage... They expect you to pay them for driving their cars and using the dispatch service. You HAVE to work 6 days a week 12 hour shifts...sometimes just to break even with gas and "pro". Cab drivers are considered contractors...and have ZERO job protections.

Lyft will hopefully change the entire transportation scene in St.Louis...and it is about time!

I am wondering why the CITY Mayor and his cab commission is regulating what happens in the county.

Bob Parsons
Bob Parsons

Fuck cabs, taxis and rude foriegn drivers!

Dan Brown
Dan Brown

^ I worked at the convention center as a union electrician for 6 months of my apprenticeship. What you over heard or made up is a complete lie. Period

Joe Martinez
Joe Martinez

I overheard at Denver airport 2 event organizers discuss the different 2 cities competing for their business. St Louis was a drive-in town offering a great outside of event activities as Denver was a fly-in town offering the same. St Louis was too union heavy as in if they wanted a chair or table moved, they'd have to get a union member to do so. For that, they were going with Denver.

Nathan Cromwell
Nathan Cromwell

Mr Lee has no room to talk they do not obey the city or state laws and sometimes they never show up at all and they like to speed

Courtney Cronin
Courtney Cronin

A little starup like Lyft or Uber is "Walmart" in his metaphor... not the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission stomping out any competition?

Diane Gibson Reynolds
Diane Gibson Reynolds

the taxi service is bad in st Louis many times I have taken a cab and cant get one back home

Jason M Parker
Jason M Parker

Boohoo. Perhaps, maybe, possibly if taxi drivers like mr lee worked harder and showed up on time there wouldn't be a need for Lyft.

TrulyS
TrulyS

I live in Cleveland and I can relate to what Drew Somervell said. Taxis in this city are routinely late--they come whenever they happen to already have a car in your area, and if they don't happen to have one near you, you just have to wait (sometimes for hours--even if you try to set up a standing appointment in advance). The dispatcher may be located out of state and completely unfamiliar with the area. If you can't give the dispatcher precise street addresses of your location and destination, heaven help you; they're totally dependent on GPS and Google Maps. You can't just say "the front door of the X supermarket on Y road in suburb Z"; you need to give the supermarket street address. And you better hope they heard you well over the phone. Anyway, as I said, they're only sending a cab to you if they happen to have one in the area in the near future, sometime.


Is it any wonder that Uber and Lyft are moving into these cities and making traditional cab companies quake in their boots? It shouldn't be. This is not about "rides for hipsters" or disenfranchising poor people. It's about the possibility of maybe getting a ride that arrives within a reasonable period of time, one whose progress toward you can be tracked in real time, from a driver who actually calls you if he can't find you at your location (I've had some just write me off as a no-show when they could have called me--they were IN THE WRONG PLACE), dispatched by YOU to where you are, not some guy in Utah. If Uber and Lyft can provide that kind of service at a decent price, they will put a well-deserved dent in the current business model of cab companies in many cities.  



Laura Dee
Laura Dee

That's like asking McDonalds what Wendy's brings to the table. Of COURSE the cabby is gonna say all bad things about his competition. SMH

Drew Somervell
Drew Somervell

Maybe if St. Louis cabbies would show up to pick up their fares, we wouldn't seek alternative transportation means. Hey Laclede Cab, are you listening?

Melani Nicole
Melani Nicole

I'm just wondering how the guy has this perfect smooth face and then this furry, perfect beard. I think he's dumping the Bosley fibers for balding guys on his face. And I also think that this is some competition that's needed. $80 round trip cab rides to a destination you can literally see from where you started (edge of Dogtown to the arch) is pathetic.

Houssein Saleh
Houssein Saleh

nice to know about lyft i hope they get banned in australia

Soy Sauce Soy Sauce
Soy Sauce Soy Sauce

When I wrote this earlier today, I didn't even realize that the owners of Laclede Cab and St. Louis County Yellow Cab LITERALLY sit on the St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission. I just guessed that it was crooked. That's the city of St. Louis for you.

Daniel DeVaney
Daniel DeVaney

Manners, road safety, more extensive background checks, cost savings, community interaction, and modern convenience can be added to the list of things Lyft brings too.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Here is your first mistake Umar; thinking that any of these insufferable hipsters give a fuck about you being able to currently support your family. Rest assured they don't. As a matter of fact when it comes down to it all they care about is themselves, particularly their ability to look as trendy as the next douchey hipster by being one of the first to partake in the next big fad while they pretend they are changing the world for the better. In reality they are only really attempting to make their own little special world smaller and more exclusive for others just like themselves. The fact that they are able to separate themselves from 'dirty, smelly foreigners who don't speak english' is an added bonus since lyft enables them to have a driver who is just as trendy and douchey as they themselves are. Gag. Like I said, what is important to this entitled generation of swine is simply their own self importance and self image as trend setters just trying to be different. Pretty repulsive really. The narcissistic assholery on display from these pricks is enough to make your most self centered baby boomer turn red in the face from embarrassment.

Jimmie Thomptson
Jimmie Thomptson

oh ... God Forbid... we do anything progressive to help the average citizen in STL, this is exactly why STL is living around 50 years behind most of this country...just give us a decent transportation system & I won't bitch

Frank Mulholland Jr
Frank Mulholland Jr

So we should wait 4 hours for a taxi and be treated like crap so rich/poor and black/white folks can interact more. OK buddy, sure. It must be a burden saving the world from your high horse one late, overpriced cab ride at a time.

Frank Mulholland Jr
Frank Mulholland Jr

If this guy is going to be so self righteous and make fun of people, then he and the rest of the STL taxi folks should start providing a service that isnt so horrible and impossible to use.

Nick Armstrong
Nick Armstrong

Disruptive firms do just that: disrupt the status quo. Adapt with changing times or find a job at Walmart or fast food until something comes along and disrupts those companies. The free market works and taxi companies can figure out how to adapt and compete with these new services. St. Louis wants to be this hub for entrepreneurship and tech start ups, but then revert to old-fashioned ways in a case like this. Figure it out, STL.

Bobby Duebelbeis
Bobby Duebelbeis

I would like to get a meeting with any taxi company president willing to look at their business model and help respond to this market change.

Meaghan Biederman
Meaghan Biederman

This guy is annoying the ever living crap out of me. Get off your soap box. Taxi service in STL is absolutely terrible. I took lyft 3 times since Friday and I've had excellent service. I also used the service in Chicago as well, same great experience. He's just scared of the competition that's doing it better than him. Bring on Lyft. Uber, too!

John Skaggs
John Skaggs

This guy doesn't make sense. Perhaps when he starts losing money to Lyft, he should go work for them. If they would even hire him Or perhaps the cab co should step up its game. This is economics 101, survival of the fittest. Get with the program dude.

lyfty
lyfty

@jaco1175  After STL cab companies constantly failing to pick me up after ordering or showing up 45 minutes later than expected, I welcome and happily plan to use Lyft.  Guess that makes me a big 'ol bag of douche.

hpatrikcoyne
hpatrikcoyne

@jaco1175  I know you live in a world where you think the person who can pose the most insults is the smartest, but try and understand the logical (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/logical) point I'm about to make.


If no one created a business model that put the old ones out of business, we would never progress as a society.  If old school cab drivers want to continue to profit, they will adapt. Just because something like Lyft doesn't abide by the current standards does not mean that it is inherently wrong.


You are the same type of person who held on tight to his horse and buggy and laughed at the people driving the new trendy "automobiles."


Grow up, Jaco.  Meanwhile, I'll be awaiting your ignorant, sophomoric retort.

jealousblues1
jealousblues1 topcommenter

he is saying if he worked for them he would make less.


If we are doing that we will all end up working minimum wage jobs...as many, many, many are now.

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