We always remain focused on our goal of fighting for drivers and part of that fight means telling our story and sharing our difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team just published an op-ed in Business Insider by one of our own drivers.
We will continue to fight for better wages, working conditions, and safety protections — especially during COVID-19. Also, we need to share the stories of all of our drivers and the hardships we and our industry is facing during the pandemic.
Share this op-ed with your fellow drivers, with your friends and family and with your communities. The time is NOW for drivers to organize for collective action and reclaim worker power. Drivers keep cities across the country moving, and we will keep fighting for our rights!
For up to date information, visit our website, and of course, please reach out with any questions. We, together, will bring back the industry with respect and dignity.
As always, we hope you and your families are staying safe and healthy.
The Independent Drivers Guild
NYU and the Independent Drivers Guild working together to mitigate COVID-19 risk for drivers and passengers
New York, NY — New York University’s School of Global Public Health (NYU GPH) is teaming up with the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) to increase the safety of rideshare drivers and passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NYU GPH environmental and occupational health experts are developing training programs and targeted protocols focused on evidence-based COVID-19 safety practices and tailored for rideshare drivers and passengers. The IDG—which represents more than 80,000 for-hire drivers for Uber, Lyft, and Via in New York City and advocates for more than 200,000 drivers across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut—will work with its members to implement, monitor, and evaluate the program.
“Drivers for ride-hailing companies are on the front line, getting people to work and critical appointments, and coming into contact with numerous passengers each day. Drivers need to be protected, and passengers need to know that with safety practices implemented, COVID-19 risks can be minimized,” said Jack Caravanos, clinical professor of environmental public health sciences at NYU GPH and the project’s director.
“Passengers must have confidence that drivers are providing the safest possible ride or they won’t return to rideshare, and drivers need to know the steps to take to protect themselves and their riders,” said Brendan Sexton, executive director of the IDG. “Ride-hail drivers transport millions of riders each day in the United States and it is critical that we move quickly to adopt the safety procedures that will protect public health. We need the cooperation of Uber, Lyft, Via, and traditional black car companies to fulfill our goal of safe rides for all. We are glad to work with NYU School of Global Public Health to develop this safe ride program because knowledge is power, and we need to empower drivers with the information and resources they need to operate safely in this unprecedented environment.”
NYU GPH is creating a series of online training modules with the Guild, available in both English and Spanish, aligning with health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The modules cover topics including an overview of COVID-19 symptoms, transmission, and testing, as well as an introduction to infection control, the proper use of face masks, personal hand hygiene, and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces. Training will also address activities specific to drivers, including vehicle cleaning, air ventilation in cars, and customer service protocols.
“I am eager to get back to work, but don’t have the luxury of working from home. It’s been difficult to balance safety and financial security. The training developed by NYU and the Guild are really important to me—giving me reliable information on how I can protect myself and my family,” said Guillermo Fondeur, an IDG member based in Brooklyn who drives for Uber and Lyft.
The Independent Drivers Guild has been the leading voice for the health and safety of ride-hail riders and drivers both before and during the Coronavirus pandemic. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the Guild successfully advocated for a ban on pool rides, a mask mandate for riders and drivers and compensation for sick and high-risk Uber, Lyft and Via drivers not just in New York City but across the nation. At the epicenter of America’s coronavirus outbreak, New York drivers found themselves without masks or sanitizer amid a worldwide shortage. The Guild worked quickly with partners to secure and distribute safety kits to more than ten thousands drivers who were still on the streets transporting hospital workers and other essential personnel and IDG is continuing to distribute safety kits as the city opens up.
The Guild’s work expanding driver benefits and protections over the years also played a critical role in protecting the health of riders and drivers throughout the crisis, from securing running water restrooms (providing critical hand washing stations) for drivers at Newark, La Guardia and JFK airports for the very first time to winning free telemedicine benefits for drivers.
The NYU team includes:
● Jack Caravanos, clinical professor of environmental public health sciences at NYU GPH, who has more than 30 years of experience in designing and implementing environmental health interventions. Local and international groups rely on his expertise and research to help communities at risk from exposure to environmental hazards and toxins. Caravanos is also a board-certified industrial hygienist and specialist in personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks.
● Andrew Goodman, clinical professor of public health policy and management at NYU GPH, who is a population health expert and former Deputy Commissioner for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Goodman now works with government agencies and union management to design workplace health programs, and several community organizations to design, implement, and evaluate community health interventions.
● Andrew Burgie, assistant research scientist at NYU GPH, who directs the Hazardous Waste Worker Training Program, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which has trained more than 5,000 professionals in the New York metropolitan area.
“We look forward to providing this training, which will benefit both drivers and their passengers. It’s one of many ways that NYU School of Global Public Health has been answering the call for public health expertise during this pandemic, from modeling to taking the pulse on primary care in New York City to community efforts mobilizing resources to donate PPE,” added Caravanos.
Caravanos, Goodman, and Burgie are working closely with the IDG to develop the evidence-based training program; IDG, a Machinists Union affiliate working to ensure the health and safety of rideshare drivers and riders through advocacy and education, will begin implementing the training program this week. The Guild is a leader in driver education and training programs, training thousands of for-hire vehicle drivers each year in defensive driving, English as a Second Language, chauffeur skills, and wellness programs.
Media contact for NYU: Julia Cartwright, email@example.com
Rachel Harrison, firstname.lastname@example.org
Media contact for IDG: Moira Muntz, email@example.com
About the NYU School of Global Public Health
At the NYU School of Global Public Health (NYU GPH), we are preparing the next generation of public health pioneers with the critical thinking skills, acumen, and entrepreneurial approaches necessary to reinvent the public health paradigm. Devoted to employing a nontraditional, interdisciplinary model, NYU GPH aims to improve health worldwide through a unique blend of global public health studies, research, and practice. The School is located in the heart of New York City and extends to NYU’s global network on six continents. Innovation is at the core of our ambitious approach, thinking and teaching. For more, visit: http://publichealth.nyu.edu/
About the Independent Drivers Guild
The Independent Drivers Guild is a Machinists Union affiliate that represents and advocates for more than 200,000 for-hire vehicle drivers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Established in 2016, the Guild has secured numerous benefits and protections for ride-hail drivers, from free telemedicine benefits and mental health counseling to free English the first of its kind job protection program. The Guild’s successful campaign to require Uber to add a tipping option to the app and to establish the nation’s first minimum wage after expenses for New York City ride hail drivers have put over a billion dollars in drivers’ pockets.
We call for a petition against insurance companies. For too long, TLC drivers have been unfairly subjected to pay high vehicle insurance cost. During these difficult times when New York City is badly impacted by the pandemic, the streets are empty, our vehicles are parked, yet we are still required to pay insurance.
Sign this petition to tell the insurance companies we should not have to pay when we are not working.
The federal government has passed the CARES Act, a $2 trillion economic relief plan that will offer Disaster Unemployment Assistance to tens of millions of households affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It includes workers in the gig economy. Your base benefit is based on the state formula, which in NY is around 50% your pay, based on how much you earned in your highest quarter out of the last five quarters. State benefits will be paid for 26 weeks. With Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, eligible workers will get an extra $600 per week on top of current levels of unemployment benefits for up to four months (Until July 31, 2020), and extend state benefits for another 13 weeks if you are still unemployed or underemployed after 26 weeks. There is more information about the federal expansion of unemployment here: https://labor.ny.gov/ui/cares-act.shtm.
According to the NY State Department of Labor, to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance, you will need to apply for state Unemployment Insurance Benefits first.
Here is a step-by-step guide to applying for Unemployment Insurance Benefits in New York State. https://www.labor.ny.gov/ui/claimantinfo/beforeyouapplyfaq.shtm
You can apply online here or by calling the number below. If you call, there is translation. Get more information here.
It is best to apply for UI online. Sign in with your NY.GOV ID https://applications.labor.ny.gov/Individual/ and follow the instructions to file a claim.
The day you should file is based on the first letter of your last name. Last names starting with A – F, file on Monday. Last names starting with G – N, file on Tuesday. Last names starting with O – Z, file on Wednesday. If you missed your filing day, file on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Filing later in the week will not delay your payments or affect the date of your claim; all claims are effective on the Monday of the week in which they are filed.
You may file your claim:
- Monday – Thursday from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm (Eastern Time)
- Friday from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm
- Saturday – all-day
- Sunday until 7 pm
Call our Telephone Claim Center, toll-free during business hours to file a claim.
- We are extending telephone filing hours as follows:
- Monday through Thursday, 8 am to 7:30 pm.
- Friday, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
- Saturday, 7:30 am to 8:00 pm.
If you file by phone, we offer translation services. Use your phone keypad to enter the number for the language you choose. A voice recording will offer you these choices:
- All other languages
Things you need to file your claim:
- Your Social Security number
- Your driver license or Motor Vehicle ID card number (if you have either one)
- Your complete mailing address and zip code
- A phone number where we can reach you from 8 am – 5 pm, Monday –Friday
- Your Alien Registration card number (if you are not a U.S. Citizen and have a card)
- Names and addresses of all your employers for the last 18 months, including those in other states
- Employer Registration number or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) of your most recent employer (FEIN is on your W-2 forms)
- Your copies of forms SF8 and SF50, if you were a federal employee
- Your most recent separation form (DD 214), for military service
- Bank account number
- 1099 forms from both companies
After submitting the form, you will have to activate the application by calling the hotline number.
IDG pushed for the app companies to provide financial assistance to drivers who are told by a licensed medical professional to stay home and self-isolate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The app companies have different policies about eligibility and required documentation.
According to the CDC, you should stay home if you are SICK or if you are over 60 or if you have heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or other serious health issues. To apply for sick pay:
- GET A DOCTORS NOTE. You can do this by calling your doctor or using our FREE telemedicine benefits to connect with a doctor via phone or video chat.
DOCTORS NOTE. When you talk to the doctor, tell them about your symptoms and ask for a letter saying you need to stay home and self-isolate due to risk of spreading COVID-19. Follow the app companies instructions for submitting documentation. Reach out to IDG if you need help.
ACTIVATE your Benefits by calling Drivers Benefits at 833-814-8590 from 8am to 8pm, or activate them online here: https://driversbenefits.org/activate-now/. Drivers Benefits can help you sign up for free or low-cost healthcare as well.
AFTER you have activated your Benefits you can use your MDLIVE Telemedicine benefit to call a doctor right from your phone, 24/7, wherever you are for free. Download the MDLIVE app from the App Store (iPhone) or Google Play (Android) or go to their website. If you’re a Drivers Benefits member and you haven’t registered at MDLIVE, you’ll need to do so before your first appointment. When you call MDLIVE, ask to make an appointment with a doctor.
You may also call or visit a local doctor or Urgent Care facility to get a doctor’s note. Call 311 to find a doctor in New York City you can see for free.
- REQUEST sick pay from Uber here. Uber is saying they will follow up with requests for documents and process payment in 2-5 days. The information below will help you get the documents you need. Please let IDG know you are requesting sick pay by completing form here.
REQUEST sick pay from Lyft by apply for sick pay by contacting Lyft directly through App through “dashboard”. You can copy IDG on the email by sending to firstname.lastname@example.org as well OR let IDG know you are requesting sick pay by completing this form.
REQUEST sick pay from Via here. Please let IDG know you are requesting sick pay by completing this form.
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@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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@example.com
Uber plans to follow Lyft’s lead in grappling with city rules and lock drivers out of its app at times and places with low demand.
Starting Tuesday, Uber will lock drivers out of its platform at times and locations that few riders are requesting trips, according the company, which emailed its Big Apple drivers about the change Friday afternoon.
Uber is following Lyft’s lead in controlling its supply of cars in response to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s rules setting a pay floor for drivers based on how much time they spend carrying passengers. Both companies blame the city for forcing them to limit when drivers work.
“Time and again we’ve seen Mayor (Bill) de Blasio’s TLC pass arbitrary and politically-driven rules that have unintended consequences for drivers and riders — despite objections from City Councilmembers, transportation experts, editorial boards and community groups,” Uber spokesperson Harry Hartfield said in a statement.
Uber’s new limits are similar to a scheme that Lyft implemented over the summer. Drivers who try to open their app when and where demand is lagging will be told that they are unable to drive, the company says.
Those who use wheelchair-accessible vehicles will be exempt from the restrictions, as will those with the top status in Uber’s driver rewards program, the company said.
A map showing where demand is the highest will allow drivers to travel to other parts of the city to have a better shot of getting work, Uber says. Drivers will also be offered a time slot when they will be guaranteed the ability to log on — a feature that Uber says distinguishes its system from Lyft’s.
Uber says it was forced to make the change because its platform was flooded with drivers who opened its app after being shut out of Lyft’s. That hurt its utilization rate, the measure of how much time drivers spend actually carrying passengers that serves as the basis for the city’s minimum pay rules, Uber said. The rules aim to ensure that drivers make $17.22 an hour after expenses.
Uber’s change will further harm drivers’ ability to make money in a notoriously difficult industry, according to Corona Uber driver Aziz Bah.
Bah used to drive for both Uber and Lyft but stopped working for the latter after the demand restrictions repeatedly locked him out of the app, he said. Now his Lyft income of $500 to $600 a week is gone and his Uber earnings have dropped because of the glut of drivers on that platform, Bah said.
Limiting when drivers can work also compromises the flexibility that drew many of them into the industry, said Bah, who is also a steward for the Independent Drivers Guild, a labor group for app-based drivers. The guild raised concerns about Lyft’s restrictions in a June letter to the TLC.
“Some people quit their nine-to-five jobs in order to have this flexibility that the industry gave them,” Bah said. “… All of a sudden it’s being taken away.”
Both Uber and Lyft argue that the restrictions are a result of the TLC’s rules, which Lyft unsuccessfully sued over earlier this year.
Acting TLC Commissioner Bill Heinzen defended the agency’s first-in-the-nation regulations, which came amid a landmark freeze on most new for-hire vehicles.
The firms spent years flooding the city’s streets with cars and should keep in mind that “drivers are crucial to their continued success,” Heinzen said.
“Until we took needed action last year, it has been Uber and Lyft’s business model to oversaturate the market while promising drivers that they could succeed despite these companies’ stacking the deck against them,” Heinzen said in a statement. “TLC and City Council put in place smart policies to address the problems these companies created, and they are finally being forced to experiment with ways to run their businesses in an environment of accountability.”