Demanding a change: Valley Lyft drivers unite and protest against new pay rates

Local Lyft drivers are sending a message Saturday, demanding change from the ride-sharing company and citing low pay and safety concerns.

We spoke with about a dozen Lyft drivers. Some of them could be out here tonight trying to make a living — something they say is becoming so hard to do with these new rates by Lyft.

We took a ride with Lyft driver Teresa Avendano. She has a family to feed but she says soon this job may be in her rearview.

"I have drivers who drive from the airport to Sun City, that's a nice, good 45-minute drive," Avendano said. "And we only make between $12 - $14 for that ride."

Last month, Lyft came out with new rates. 45 cents per pickup, 35 cents a mile, and 15 cents every minute. Avendano says she used to make $1.17 each mile she drove passengers. 

Her fellow drivers are also feeling the financial hit. Together, they drove to the Lyft hub to make their voices heard.

Arturo Meza says he had to spend $100 on car maintenance recently.

"Now I have to work 12 - 14 hours out there to try to take home $100," Meza said. "Divided by 12, 14 hours, it's a lot less than minimum wage — we're living in poverty."

But safety is also an issue for drivers. They remember the names: Harold Treadwell, Kristin Howato — murdered while driving for Lyft.

"I don't carry weapons, it's not allowed," said Misty Webb. "I don't carry them, but I do wear [a] vest because it's allowed, and I take all rides, even though it's dangerous."

"I've had passengers physically hit me," Avendano said. "I've had passengers physically fight in the back of my car."

Lyft officials did invite the drivers to speak privately, but not with media present. Avendano says issues need to be addressed, like the time she claims a drunk wrong-way driver hit her as she did her job. As an independent contractor, she has no medical benefits with Lyft, and may even be losing money when her taxes are due.

"It has to be drivers standing together, making the point to them," Avendano said when asked what it would take to make a change. "Because there's so many drivers out there that work like this, but a lot of drivers aren't speaking up."

Lyft issued the following statement:

"One of the top requests we receive from drivers is to be paid for their effort while picking up a passenger. Drivers will now be paid while on their way to picking up a passenger, which will make earnings more consistent on a week-to-week basis.

But drivers we spoke to question that statement because they say they're picking up passengers just minutes away. 

We're told these protests will not stop — Lyft drivers will be back at the hub again, demanding change.