Uber and Lyft drivers in Los Angeles strike over pay, working conditions

“I’m drowning in this gig economy," one striking driver told NBC News.

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By Ben Kesslen and Ted Chen

Some Uber and Lyft drivers in Los Angeles held a 25-hour strike Monday to protest wage cuts and working conditions.

The work stoppage was spurred by Uber’s recent announcement of a 25 percent cut in drivers' pay per mile in Los Angeles and parts of Orange County.

Hundreds of drivers for both Lyft and Uber protested during the day outside Uber’s offices in Redondo Beach, Calif., according to Rideshare Drivers United, an advocacy group.

Sinakhone Keodara, 44, a Lyft driver, was among them.

“I’m currently homeless,” Keodara told NBC News. “I don’t make enough to get out of my situation, but I can’t walk away from Lyft. I’m trapped in an endless cycle.”

Uber said that with the changes to its fare rates, drivers will earn the same as in the fall.

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“These changes will make rates comparable to where they were in September, while giving drivers more control over how they earn by allowing them to build a model that fits their schedule best,” Uber said.

Lyft told NBC News in a statement, “The vast majority of drivers use Lyft as a temporary source of extra money -- in fact, 91% drive fewer than 20 hours a week” and noted it has not changed its rates in 12 months.

Uber driver Suzanne Gersbach told NBC Los Angeles that “over the last three and a half years, almost every like six months, they continue to lower the incentives and the rates.”

Drivers for both rideshare companies say the fact that they have to pay to maintain their vehicles makes it difficult to earn enough to live on.

Keodara said he often works seven days a week and 14-hour days, but still finds himself sleeping in the car he’s renting from Lyft and skipping meals.

As a member of Rideshare Drivers United, Keodara helped organize the day’s action.

The group is calling for minimum pay that matches New York City's new rule that rideshare drivers get paid $28 an hour salary before expenses. Lyft and Juno are currently challenging that New York City provision in court.

The drivers' organization in Los Angeles also wants drivers to have “the right to organize without retaliation.”

The strike comes after Uber was recently ordered to pay $20 million in a settlement to California and Massachusetts drivers, which one expert said was actually “a win” for the company in part because it doesn't have to classify its workers as employees.

Gig economy companies more broadly are facing scrutiny for classifying their workers as contractors.

“I’m drowning in this gig economy,” Keodara said. “We should be getting overtime and benefits, and at least minimum-wage pay.”