IDG Crisis Response Team is Assisting Ride-Hail Drivers in Wake of Coronavirus
New York, NY — With “stay at home” mandates being enacted in various states across the country, rideshare drivers are uniquely exposed economic danger posed by COVID-19. Lax federal screening and quarantining of arriving travelers also left ride-hail drivers particularly exposed to the health dangers of COVID-19. While apps answered our call to curb the spread of the virus by suspending their “pool” feature and expanding sick pay, these individual efforts do not go far enough in ensuring the safety and financial well-being of the thousands of drivers working today.
“Ride-hail drivers were already struggling to stay afloat and dealing with widespread financial instability,” says Brendan Sexton, Executive Director of Independent Drivers Guild, a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 200,000 drivers in NY, NJ, and CT. “They are especially vulnerable now during this pandemic. Drivers are continuing to put themselves at risk to provide an essential service and are not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. We are calling for emergency unemployment compensation to provide relief to drivers and other “gig” workers, as well as an increase in testing to keep drivers safe. If we want an economy that can recover for all, we can’t afford to ignore the needs of those working in the gig economy.”
Here is a summary of our Coronavirus response efforts. This is not all inclusive.
-CORONAVIRUS VIRTUAL CRISIS RESPONSE TEAM and 24/7 HOTLINE – We have a multilingual team running our crisis response hotline for our members, including trained driver volunteers and 5 licensed social workers. We are fielding hundreds of calls from drivers seeking assistance during this crisis. Our team speaks 8 languages. We also had two webinars with drivers, walking through resources to deal with this crisis as well as our crisis response, including:
Accessing drivers free telemedicine
Protecting Your Health
Paid Sick Days
General Health Recommendations
Organizing for Relief
Organizing for Relief + Volunteering to Help
Protecting Your Financial Stability
Dealing with Expenses
Solidarity and Support (Including free crisis counseling with licensed counselor)
– EXPANDED SICK PAY: We pushed both Uber and Lyft to drop the requirement of a positive COVID-19 test to get sick pay so that drivers who are sick or who are at risk can get paid to stay home and self-isolate based on a note from a licensed medical professional.
– DRIVER CRISIS OUTREACH AND GETTING AT RISK AND SICK DRIVERS OFF THE ROAD: We are doing outreach to drivers to check in on their health and wellbeing and offering assistance in many areas of need. We have been phonebanking our members starting with drivers over the age of 60, urging those at high risk to protect their health and use the expanded sick pay policy we won, guiding them through the steps to get a doctor’s note and apply for compensation with the app companies.
We also have an online intake form for drivers needing assistance and will dispatch a call back.
-FREE TELEMEDICINE: New York’s ride-hail drivers are the only Uber and Lyft drivers in the nation with free telemedicine benefits because IDG spent years researching, organizing and advocating to win them through the state’s Black Car Fund (workers comp fund). We won those benefits about a year and a half ago and as a result, amid this crisis 120,000 NY ride hail and black car drivers can be seen by a doctor through the same smart phone they need for work anyway. We urged the city, the apps and the Black Car Fund to raise awareness of this critical free benefit and they have agreed to do so, including a paid ad campaign by the Black Car Fund. We have offered to help the City expand this program to livery and taxi drivers and we are urging CT and NJ governments to fund expansion of the benefit to cover drivers in those states.
– ENDING POOL RIDES: We led the call for the apps to end pool rides or New York City to ban them in order to protect the health of drivers, riders and our communities. Uber agreed to drop pool rides, then Lyft followed suit and the mayor issued a ban. Uber has now halted pool rides globally.
-MEALS ON WHEELS VOLUNTEERS: Without enough work to go around, we organized IDG members (Uber and Lyft drivers) to volunteer making home deliveries to the elderly and vulnerable with various Meals on Wheels organizations, like Encore Community Service. We raised money on GoFundMe to compensate drivers for their expenses. We reached out to the city, state and many organizations for connecting drivers with meeting emerging needs as well as exploring opportunities for drivers to be compensated for doing this critical work. This week the city announced it would scale up this effort.
-NEGOTIATING WITH LEASING COMPANIES, BANKS AND INSURERS: We have extracted commitments from a couple of the big leasing companies, we are negotiating with banks and insurers, we are talking with state lawmakers and city and state regulators about solutions to these high recurring expenses for drivers. On an individual level our crisis hotline is connecting drivers with those who can support them in their individual negotiations with creditors. We are also having discussions with financial and credit institutions re: access to credit and lending.
– EMERGENCY RELIEF: Macro: We are pursuing emergency relief at the city, state and federal level, including unemployment compensation for gig workers, universal basic income, paid leave and the issues raised above. Micro: If drivers qualify we are helping them sign up for SNAP benefits, free or lower cost subsidized health insurance, connecting with open food banks, financial counseling etc.
– RUNNING WATER RESTROOMS: after a years long campaign and years of research we won running water restrooms at the airport ride hail lots for the very first time starting this past fall at EWR, LGA, JFK. These desperately needed handwashing stations could not have come at a more critical time for protecting drivers, riders and the community. We are calling on the City to allow FHV to park…
IDG is a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 200,000 drivers in NY, NJ, and CT
Ride-Hail Apps are Putting NYC At Risk By Failing to Promote Driver Screenings and Provide Answers on Driver Sick Pay
Uber, Lyft Drivers Call for City, Apps to Promote COVID-19 Screening for Drivers, Demand Answers on Sick Pay
New York, NY — In light of the federal government’s failure to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Independent Drivers Guild is calling for New York City and ride-hail apps Uber, Lyft and Via to promote free telemedicine screenings for New York drivers. The IDG is also demanding answers on the sick pay the apps have promised.
“The best-intentioned traveler with COVID-19 must get home to self-quarantine. But first, they need to get home, and Uber, Lyft and Via drivers are the way they often do that. We know drivers will get sick, Uber, Lyft and Via must work with us to ensure these drivers have the ability to stay home,” said Brendan Sexton, Executive Director of Independent Drivers Guild.
The Center for Disease Control has recommended telemedicine amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to screen patients without putting others at risk. The Independent Drivers Guild advocated for and won a free telemedicine benefit for New York’s ride-hail and black car drivers in 2018 through the state’s Black Car Fund. However, Uber, Lyft, and Via have thus far failed to include an in-app button for drivers to access this critical benefit and they all must do more to promote screenings. Via has failed to promote the free telemedicine screenings at all despite the fact that their drivers may be most at risk because their trips are largely pooled rides, often packing six riders in a van.
Uber, Lyft and Via have all promised compensation for drivers who become infected with COVID-19 or are directed to quarantine, but they have provided no path to that compensation. IDG has built that path, but we need Uber, Lyft, and Via as partners. We also need Uber, Lyft and Via to provide detail on their sick pay plans, like how to submit a doctor’s order to self-quarantine, how to receive compensation and how much drivers will be paid.
The Independent Drivers Guild is also urging the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to promote the free telemedicine screenings to drivers as well as providing handwashing stations with parking for TLC drivers and establishing a written policy that TLC drivers will not be billed for visiting city hospitals and clinics for visits concerning COVID-19 symptoms, consistent with recent remarks that those who cannot afford testing can be tested for free. The Guild met with the TLC on these issues last week and followed up with a memo to the city and app companies earlier this week.
The Independent Drivers Guild takes the health of professional drivers seriously and the Guild’s organizing wins are helping in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. In addition to the telemedicine benefit, the IDG successfully advocated for and secured running water restrooms for ride-hail drivers at JFK, La Guardia and Newark airports for the very first time beginning this past fall, providing critically needed handwashing facilities. The IDG also advocated for and secured free flu shots for New York’s ride-hail and black car drivers, with this being the second year providing free inoculations. Now with the spread of COVID-19, the IDG is working again to protect the health of drivers, riders and the community. Media Contact: [email protected]
Albany, NY — The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), which advocates for more than 80,000 ride-hail drivers in New York, is calling for New York legislators to pass right to bargain legislation in testimony before the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Labor today.
The Drivers Guild called for New York State leaders to give drivers the right to collective and sectoral bargaining at a State Senate hearing in October and this week, New York State Senator Savino, who convened the hearing, announced that she will introduce legislation in January that will give drivers the right to bargain.
“We would like to thank the Committee for holding a public hearing on key issues we are facing in a new era of work in America and New York State. New York has always been a labor leader, and today, we have an opportunity to make real change and give 120,000 drivers in New York State a real voice, real power and a real chance at attaining collective bargaining rights. None of that can happen in the current state or with the current labor laws at the federal level,” said Sexton. “Today, too many workers have no voice. As the rich get richer, workers wages remain stagnant. We are calling on New York State to pass legislation giving ride-hail drivers the right to unionize with collective sectoral bargaining agreements. If New York passes a right to bargain law, we will be blazing a trail for growing our unionized workforce and the largest organizing gains in the history of New York State.”
The Independent Drivers Guild successfully organized to win the nation’s first minimum pay rate protection for New York City’s app-based drivers (at $27.86 per hour) as well as landmark benefits and a law requiring Uber to offer a tipping option in the app. The Guild’s organizing wins have put over $1 billion in drivers’ pockets. However, ride-hail companies continue to dramatically change the terms of drivers’ working conditions at any time and only collective or sectoral bargaining rights will empower drivers to finally end this exploitation.
“We want a bargaining agreement that lets us work when we want and would stop the apps from making massive unilateral changes to our livelihoods,” added Aziz Bah, a driver for Uber and Lyft who is also an IDG organizer.
Media contact: [email protected]
Guild Warns a State Reclassification Bill Would Leave Drivers Unable to Unionize
New York, NY — The Independent Drivers Guild, which represents and advocates for New York’s ride-hail drivers, is calling for New York State to pass legislation giving drivers the right to fully unionize with collective and sectoral bargaining rights.
The Drivers Guild, a Machinists Union affiliate, successfully organized to win the nation’s first minimum pay rate protection for New York’s app-based drivers as well as landmark benefits and a law requiring Uber to offer a tipping option in the app. The Guild’s organizing wins have put over $1 billion in drivers’ pockets. However, ride-hail companies continue to dramatically change the terms of drivers’ working conditions at any time and only collective or sectoral bargaining rights will empower drivers to finally end this exploitation.
“Our labor laws are broken and New York must act to give workers an easier path to representation. If New York passes a right to bargain law, we will be blazing a trail for growing our unionized workforce with the largest organizing gains in decades. We can empower 120,000 ride-hail drivers to get the representation they so desperately want. Only by empowering workers to forge their own agenda can we truly ensure that workers are treated fairly,” said IDG Executive Director and longtime labor organizer Brendan Sexton. Read Sexton’s prepared testimony here:
“The Trump National Labor Relations Board ruled that Uber drivers are not employees eligible to unionize under federal law. A state law reclassifying drivers as employees would not reverse that and would leave drivers in a strange legal purgatory, unable to unionize and with legal challenges continuing to stretch on for years,” said Sexton. “Our members can’t wait years, our members are struggling right now. New York has an opportunity to give drivers the right to unionize right now and we urge you to be bold and do just that. Don’t stick drivers in a legal purgatory, give us the right to collective bargaining. Let us unionize. We in New York State can be the game changer to allow workers to organize in a real meaningful way. This is a chance for New York to live up to its pro-union reputation.”
“New York State and the Machinists Union helped drivers gain workers’ compensation through the Black Car Fund two decades ago and we are proud to have expanded those benefits. However there are many issues that gig workers face that cannot be resolved through a fund and it’s time for New York to act again, this time giving drivers the right to unionize,” added Sexton. “We applaud the New York State AFL-CIO and their efforts to help New York State workers unionize with collective and sectoral bargaining agreements. We will work and support them in building a more robust labor movement that includes more workers, include an easier path to representation and collective bargaining.”
Union membership has dropped to a record low in the United States, with just six percent of private sector workers represented by a union. At the same time over 85 percent of workers want to belong to a Union and according to a poll done by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research among New York’s ride-hail drivers that figure is even higher with 95 percent of drivers desiring representation. This disconnect is because federal labor laws are failing workers and the Trump administration’s National Labor Relations Board is only seeking to make it harder for workers to get the representation they seek.
In May, the Trump National Labor Relations Board released its ruling that Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, under the National Labor Relations Act. This means ride-hail drivers cannot organize in a union under federal law. The ruling left open the possibility for states to fill in the void with these workers and create a path to organize in a real meaningful way.
Media contact: [email protected]
Independent Drivers Guild Led Massive Protest Caravan Over Brooklyn Bridge, Up to Gracie Mansion, and to Uber Headquarters
New York, NY — On Tuesday morning thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers with the Independent Drivers Guild led a slow vehicle procession over the Brooklyn Bridge and up to Gracie Mansion to call for the Mayor and City Council’s help in response to new app changes from Uber and Lyft in New York City that will harm drivers’ ability to make a living. Drivers who were able to park did so and rallied outside Gracie mansion. The caravan then continued on to Uber Headquarters in Manhattan where many drivers parked and protested outside the Uber office and others circled the block honking.
Approximately 6,000 drivers participated in the action which slowed rush hour traffic to a near stand still in a procession that stretched across the city at times covering the full length from the Brooklyn Bridge up FDR Drive to Gracie Mansion.
Starting on Tuesday Uber launched new policies to kick drivers off the apps between trips and in areas of lower demand in order to avoid paying drivers as required by New York City’s pay regulations. Lyft enacted a similar policy earlier this summer to protests from the Drivers Guild. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has failed to take action, so the Drivers Guild is calling for the Mayor and City Council to stop the apps from violating the pay rules in an attempt to scam drivers out of fair pay and top pass a Drivers’ Bill of Rights. The Guild, a Machinists Union affiliate representing and advocating for New York’s 80,000 app-based drivers, led a two year campaign to win the nation’s first minimum pay rate for Uber and Lyft drivers. Rules which the apps are now violating.
“Uber and Lyft are flouting New York City’s driver pay rules to avoid paying drivers what they have earned and the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has done nothing to stop them. Today drivers are saying: We will not be ignored. We are calling on the Mayor and City Council to step in and help us fight back against the app companies. More than 1,000 Uber and Lyft drivers logged off the apps to take part in a procession over the Brooklyn Bridge and through Manhattan to Gracie Mansion today to protest the app companies and demand action from the city,” said Brendan Sexton, Executive Director of the IDG, a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 80,000 app based drivers in NYC. “For months we warned that if the city failed to take enforcement action against Lyft for violating the pay rules, that the other apps would follow suit and drivers’ pay would suffer. Already thousands of drivers are struggling to pay their bills because Lyft is blocking them from the app. Now with Uber following suit more than 80,000 New York City families will pay the price if the city refuses to stand up for drivers and crackdown on the app companies.”
Council Member Brad Lander who sponsored the law requiring a minimum pay rate for Uber and Lyft drivers has also spoken out against the app companies’ actions and voiced his support for the drivers today.
“Kicking drivers off the app between rides and controlling where and when drivers can work directly undermines Uber and Lyft’s pretense of employing independent contractors who set their own hours. Far from providing flexible work schedules and a solution to transit deserts, Uber and Lyft are forcing drivers to avoid serving low-income outer boroughs and limiting their ability to make a living wage, in violation of the spirit of NYC Council’s ground-breaking legislation to guarantee for-hire drivers a minimum hourly wage. These are the same companies that have been arguing that they don’t control their drivers’ work and it isn’t central to their business model. Uber and Lyft can’t have it both ways. Either recognize drivers as employees entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay, health insurance and all the rights that entails, or follow the law we passed to ensure that drivers make a fair wage,” said Councilmember Brad Lander.
Today’s protest shows growing driver anger at the app companies and the city’s failure to protect driver pay. Just last week more than 100 IDG members gathered at CIty Hall to call for the city to abolish the TLC due to its failure to stand up for drivers, including on this issue of enforcing the pay rules. The Guild also called for the city to pass a Drivers’ Bill of Rights, which specifically included blocking apps from trying to get around the pay rules.
For months Lyft has been kicking New York City drivers off the app to avoid paying them and the Independent Drivers Guild has been calling on the city to take aggressive enforcement action, warning that without enforcement other apps may follow suit. On Friday, just days after more than 100 IDG members rallied at City Hall calling for action, Uber announced in an email to drivers that it would indeed begin the same practice to flout the city’s pay rules on Tuesday.
In June, the Guild wrote a letter to the City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission calling for enforcement on this issue and drivers testified to this issue in July calling attention to the fact that Lyft was using this policy to further enrich the company by giving preferential access to drivers who pay them upwards of $400 per week to rent a vehicle from Lyft’s Express Drive program. However, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission failed to act and failed to include any further regulatory guidance during its summer rulemaking, despite having the clear opportunity to do so.