PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — For the past five years, Ben Valdez has been driving for Uber in addition to a full-time job.
Despite the pandemic, he said he has felt the pressure to keep driving, even if it means putting himself at risk of exposure.
What You Need To Know
- Uber recently announced a partnership with vaccine manufacturer Moderna in an effort to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines
- One local Uber driver feels rideshare app and delivery drivers should be prioritized in receiving the vaccine
- Uber is committing to 10 million free or discounted rides to help ensure transportation isn’t a barrier to getting a shot
"I’m definitely in the high-risk category," he said. "I’m overweight, I’m older, I have diabetes, and so I’m basically risking myself for money."
The only way Valdez said he can make real money driving is by seeking out rides that provide surge fares. He has even resorted to picking up riders heading to super-spreader events around Los Angeles and neighboring cities.
"Illegal raves, warehouse parties from anywhere between 100 to 1,000 people, I specifically went out there looking for these events only because they’re the most lucrative," he said.
Fortunately for Valdez, he said he hasn’t contracted the virus from his rides but added that other drivers he knows have contracted it. That is one of the reasons he remains eager for the vaccine. He still waits his turn and feels rideshare app and delivery drivers should be prioritized.
“I think it would be great if drivers were treated with a little more concern,” Valdez said.
Uber has launched safety measures, such as requiring drivers to scan their face for a mask. The company is now working to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines by committing to 10 million free or discounted rides to help ensure transportation isn’t a barrier to getting a shot.
The company recently announced a partnership with vaccine manufacturer Moderna on their mission. Yet Valdez doesn’t see much upside for drivers because, as he explained, when Uber runs promotions for discounted or free rides, they are base fare, which can run as low as $2 to $5 per ride.
"If people are willing to take the lowest rate that Uber is offering, then you know it works out for them," said Valdez. "They’ll definitely get more rides. I think that drivers are kind of getting the short end of the stick."
He added that he would consider doing vaccination rides if Uber offered a financial bonus or helped drivers access the vaccine sooner, so that they feel safer picking up riders heading to their shots.
"That would have been a smarter move," said Valdez. "You know you’re having people that are going to get vaccinated by people who are not vaccinated. Definitely prioritizing us would be helpful."
Spectrum News 1 reached out to both Uber and Moderna for more information and to comment on the story but did not hear back.