This week there are protests throughout the French cities of Nice, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lyon and Lille against UberPOP, the European version of Uber. According to the police, 2,800 taxi drivers are protesting today against UberPOP. Unfortunately, there have already been reports of Taxi drivers attacking Uber drivers and damaging vehicles they suspect of being driven by Uber drivers. There are also confirmed reports of both Taxi and Uber drivers being arrested by police in France.
With UberPOP, everybody can become an Uber driver — taxi drivers see the service as unfair competition since they have to get a special license.
UberPOP has already been banned in parts of Europe, like Brussels, the Netherlands, and even France. This hasn’t stopped Uber from continuing to work in those areas. While UberPOP may be banned on grounds that it doesn’t regulate drivers enough, the app Uber cannot be made illegal unless specific laws are passed. In Paris, police have issued fines to UberPOP drivers, but Uber pays these fines for drivers as a cost of doing business.
I saw a group of taxi drivers talking together and asked them a simple question — why are you protesting today? At first, the drivers were reluctant and didn’t want to talk to me. “You are a journalist, you already know everything, we don’t want to talk to you,” one driver said.
Then, after a couple of minutes, they told me everything. “Here’s the truth, I have three children and I don’t bring enough money home,” another driver said. Many kept saying how little money they earn, and how hard it has become.
“I don’t even earn enough money to pay for a taxi ride. If I weren’t a taxi driver, of course I would use UberPOP. A €10 taxi ride costs €4 euros on UberPOP,” a driver said. “This American company is trying to fuck us, so we found a way to fuck them back — we don’t pay taxes on our rides,” he said.