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Uber, Lyft Drivers Guild Calls For Right To Unionize at NYS Senate Hearing

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.

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Event | Lyft | Petitions | Press Releases | Strike | Uber

Thousands of Uber, Lyft Drivers Shutdown Rush Hour Traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan in Protest of Apps Cheating on Pay Rules – Call for Mayor, City Council to Act

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.

Further Background:

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.