Liz Gannes and Mike Isaac

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Uber Drivers Protest Outside the Company’s San Francisco Headquarters

A large group of Uber drivers gathered this afternoon to protest outside the car-hailing-app maker’s San Francisco headquarters.

Chanting “no respect, no work,” the drivers told AllThingsD they are protesting the way Uber treats them.

“They’re running a sweatshop with an app. They don’t have the balls to come down and talk to us. We’ve been here for two hours,” said Raj Alazzeh, a driver with SF Best Limo who is serving as the group’s spokesman.

Alazzeh stood with a group of about 30 drivers, with more circling the block in the SOMA neighborhood amid Friday afternoon traffic to show their support.

He said the group’s complaints included pay lowered by 10 percent, rampant firing — he claimed that 500 drivers were cut off last month — and the recent hiring of nonprofessional drivers without commercial liability insurance, including “soccer moms and kids out of college.”

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Reached for comment, Ilya Abyzov, general manager for Uber San Francisco, said, “Uber is 100 percent committed to working with only the highest-quality transportation providers, thousands of whom are using Uber to grow their businesses and provide quick and reliable service to San Franciscans. Drivers who don’t know the city well or who are unsafe or unprofessional ultimately receive consistently negative feedback from riders that we cannot ignore.”

Uber does not hire drivers directly but rather operates as a dispatcher for existing car services. “Uber chooses to call us partners for their tax benefit. If they called us employees, they’d have to cover us all,” said Alazzeh.

The protesters said they spoke for drivers in Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., as well. But they are not formally organized yet. “This is very much a grassroots campaign,” said Alazzeh.

However, the group does not include all Uber drivers in San Francisco — a quick check of the app shows available cars in many neighborhoods.

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