Police make arrests after rideshare drivers block North Avenue in protest for living wage, better safety protections

CHICAGO (CBS) — Police arrested protesters and hauled them away in handcuffs late Tuesday afternoon as they demanded better pay and safer working conditions for Chicago rideshare drivers.

As CBS 2’s Marybel González reported, rideshare drivers gathered outside the Uber Greenlight Chicago Hub at 1401 W. North Ave., just east of the Kennedy Expressway. They demanded that Uber and Lyft pay their drivers higher wages and enact more safety measures to protect them

The drivers, represented by the Chicago Gig Alliance, complained that high gas prices and inflation are causing serious problems for their family budgets.

They also accused Uber and Lyft of failing to address their concerns with safety – and in particular protect them from carjackers     and violence.

“When I get an offer for a ride, I don’t see a picture of the person. It could be a fake name. I have no idea who they are,” said rideshare driver Jayson Franklin, “and they know that the police have a very difficult time tracking down who ordered the ride.”

Franklin fears working especially at night. He is among those demanding change.

“We ask at the very least that Uber and Lyft raise the bar for passengers, so that if there is an incident, that criminals know that they’re going to be tied to that ride,” he said.

Members of the Chicago Gig Alliance want the City Council to pass an ordinance requiring passengers to verify their identities.

“You can’t control the crime that happens outside the vehicle,” said Chicago Gig Alliance organizer Lori Simmons. “What we do want is for the companies to protect us from our own customers.”

Their concerns are real – especially after the Chicago Police Department issued a new community alert about a series of carjackings involving Uber drivers. The carjackings are happening on parts of the North, South, and West sides alike – as well as several western suburbs.

Police said a crew is carjacking some rideshare drivers, and then using those cars to commit other carjackings and robberies.

“We’re asking the city to step up and force Uber and Lyft to make some changes, to protect the moms and dads; the aunts and uncles of the city, so they don’t have to do their job in fear,” Franklin said.

As of just before 5:30 p.m., some protesters were sitting across North Avenue in the crosswalk at Besly Court, while police stood at the scene warning them that they could be arrested.

Officers began arresting the protesters soon afterward. They were handcuffed and taken away to a police wagon.

It was not immediately learned what, if anything, they were charged or cited with.

We reached out to both Uber and Lyft for comment on the drivers’ grievances. We had not heard back as of late Tuesday night.

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