Uber tipping: First NYC, then the country?

SAN FRANCISCO — New York City could force Uber and other ride-hailing services to add a tipping option to their apps as soon as this fall, potentially resolving a bitter point of contention among drivers and opening the door to nationwide changes.

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission on Monday granted a petition by the city’s Independent Drivers Guild to create a rule that would require ride-hailing services to add in-app tipping.

Read Full Article


March 14th Blizzard

Tomorrow and Wednesday, we strongly encourage all IDG members to stay inside, safe from the elements. The risk is not worth it.

There is a Blizzard Warning for New York City tomorrow from 12AM on 3/14 to 12AM on 3/15. The current forecast calls for 12-20″ of snow, winds of 25-35mph with gusts up to 55mph, and cold temperatures. Snowfall rates of 2-4″ per hour are possible which may result in whiteout conditions and visibility of less than a quarter mile. View the NYC Emergency Management press release here.

As the old labor motto goes, an injury to one is an injury to all.


Labor protections rise in New York’s Uber, Lyft debate

Albany Times Union | Matthew Hamilton


There also is an Independent Drivers Guild affiliated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers that Uber recognized in 2016, making it the first such group of drivers to be recognized by the company. The guild has already scored a $1 raise on the minimum Uber fare rate, and is pressing for Uber to add a tipping option in 2017.

“Having that voice with the company is crucial,” said Independent Drivers Guild spokeswoman Moira Muntz.

She believes lawmakers should require Uber to commit to recognizing representation for upstate drivers. “It gives drivers the power to continually make those changes, and that is something that was hard-fought,” she said. ” … There are over 45,000, nearly 50,000, Uber drivers in the city, all of whom are represented by the guild that can help give upstate drivers more power and clout to make workplace policy changes if they are joining up with that big group on shared concerns.”

The complex debate over whether drivers deserve employment benefits afforded to workers in a number of other industries apparently has not been lost on state lawmakers, who are said to have debated this point as they consider legislation to allow ride-hailing to expand.

Read the full article at:


Ride-Hailing Drivers Are Slaves to the Surge

New York Times | Masha Goncharova


“My friends don’t like their corporate jobs because there’s no flexibility,” Mr. Santos said. “So they say, ‘Maybe we’ll do Uber part-time instead.’”

He said he discouraged the change: “I tell them, ‘No way. You’ll lose money. There are so many expenses — maintenance, insurance, liability, the T.L.C. license, gas. And the only time you make real money is on surge — so you will miss family dinner and putting the kids to bed.’”

“But that’s the only way,” he added. “You have to treat it like an intense full-time job.”

To address these concerns, a coalition of New York City drivers and a regional branch of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers founded the Independent Drivers Guild in May.

Sohail Rana, 48, who drives for Uber and joined the guild in July, said he thought apps had made drivers “slaves to the surges.”

“We’re like sitting ducks,” said Mr. Rana, who started driving for UberBlack, the company’s high-end service, after business slowed for the private black car company he worked for, a downturn he attributed to the ride-hailing apps.

“They really just messed up the industry by saturating it so much,” he said. “It used to be that booking a black car would cost $100, $200 per hour.”

Drivers for UberBlack, which account for 6 percent of all Uber business in the city, by contrast, now earn about $33 per hour, he said. After expenses, Mr. Rana added, that amount was closer to $15 per hour.

According to James Conigliaro Jr., a founder of the guild, the 45,000 Uber drivers represented in the city are the victims of a “global bait-and-switch,” in which apps like Uber lure drivers with attractive fares only to extract ever-larger commissions and invest in driverless technology.

Read the full article at:


Uber and Airbnb business models come under scrutiny

Silicon Valley behemoths put under pressure from around the world in 2016

Financial Times | Leslie Hook


New York guild promises to strengthen Uber drivers’ rights

One of the ways Uber has tried to head off potential labour issues this past year is by lending its support to a new type of labour organisation: the guild. Falling somewhere between a formal labour union and a trade association, the Independent Drivers Guild for Uber drivers in New York City, launched in May, has been pioneering a different model of representation.

The guild has already signed up roughly 45,000 Uber drivers since it was launched, says Jim Conigliaro Jr, founder of the guild and the general counsel at the Machinists Union District 15, which is closely affiliated with the Independent Drivers Guild. The guild draws most of its financial support from Uber and it is free for drivers to sign up. It is planning to shift to a voluntary dues system soon, which will offer extra benefits such as life insurance.

Big issues for the guild so far have been tipping, which Uber still does not allow through its app, and “deactivation”, which refers to when Uber removes drivers from the system. Working with the guild, Uber has agreed that a committee of five Uber drivers can be the ultimate arbiter over whether drivers are reactivated. This is a step forward from the previous system, under which drivers had no recourse to become reactivated.

In the long term, however, the guild’s ambitions are much bigger. It hopes to work with Uber and the Freelancers Union to create a centralised portable benefit fund that would help all independent contractors access better options for healthcare and retirement.

Because Uber drivers are independent contractors, and not full-time employees, they are not eligible in the US for employee protections such as union membership, the right to collective bargaining and healthcare or pension plans.

“This excluded class of worker is growing, and they don’t have access to unions,” says Mr Conigliaro. “I think it is important for unions to pivot, and to have another lane where they can bring workers up, and raise the floor for workers regardless of their classification.”

Read full article at:


Pissed Off: Uber and Lyft Drivers Get No Relief

When you got to go, you got to go!

Black Enterprise | Samara Lynn

Ridesharing drivers of services, including Uber and Lyft, have a problem of utmost urgency—they have nowhere to use the bathroom when dropping off and picking up customers at the world’s busiest airport, JFK.

“The lack of clean, accessible bathrooms for drivers has been a problem for too long. The atrocious situation at JFK airport must be corrected,” said Independent Drivers Guild founder Jim Conigliaro, Jr., in a press release. “Drivers have been bringing this up to the authorities and rideshare companies for years with no progress—but with the power of the Guild, we intend to win this basic necessity.”

The Independent Drivers Guild is a newly-formed organization created to protect and address concerns of independent car service drivers in New York.

The group has launched an online campaign urging the New York Port Authority—the governing body over the city’s transportation—to provide accommodations for ridesharing service drivers.

Licensed New York City cab drivers have access to restroom facilities at the airport in JFK’s Central Taxi Hold. However, a report from several years ago cites the conditions of those restrooms as “stomach-churning.”

Still, any bathroom is better than none. “Ridesharing passengers would be shocked to see the conditions these drivers are subjected to,” Conigliaro, Jr. said. “We invite passengers and the public to stand with us, by signing the petition to correct this indignity.”

Independent drivers are especially concerned about the holiday season—more drivers will spend time at the airports.

The online petition goes into detail about the issue:

It’s a grim situation in the waiting lot. Half-filled bottles of questionable origin and odor litter the cell phone lot, where the only place to go to the bathroom currently is a section of the parking lot where there are a few anemic bushes.

Drivers have been bringing this up with rideshare companies and the Port Authority for years. It seems that there is finally some movement on this issue, but we need your help to get this done. The powers that be need to hear from you!

Read full article at:


Ride-share can’t have a free ride

By Jim Conigliaro Jr., Commentary | Albany Times Union

Ride-sharing companies are back making big promises in New York state. In all the fervor upstate, the challenges in communities where ride-sharing already exists are being forgotten. In New York City, where I advocate for Uber drivers, ride-sharing companies have operated for years, shifting risk and burden on to the workers and taxpayers. While upstaters and visitors bemoan the lack of ride-sharing, being a “late-mover” gives our state a critical advantage.

As we debate legalizing the ride-sharing industry, legislators have a unique opportunity to ensure ride-sharing “jobs” meet basic standards. New York will never have more leverage with ride-sharing companies than it has right now. Legislators must not let Uber push through a rush deal to operate without oversight while New Yorkers pay the price. Upstate has waited this long, lawmakers should take a few more weeks to get this right. This is the perfect time for New York to chart a more responsible and sustainable path for ride-sharing and serve as a global model.

Ride-sharing drivers are deemed contractors and denied the job protections and benefits many Americans take for granted. Forget retirement accounts and dental — drivers don’t get sick days and many lack health insurance. Much like Walmart, ride-sharing companies are transferring labor costs and risk to workers and taxpayers. Taxpayers should never be forced to subsidize wealthy international corporations.

We must get these companies to pay their fair share. Establishing a benefits fund for workers and requiring the companies to fund it is one way to do that. By the same token, New York must require that ride-sharing companies contribute to the state’s Black Car Fund for upstate drivers, just as they do for drivers in New York City. This fund covers workers compensation insurance for work-related injuries as well as safety training.

Independent contractors are also precluded from being members of a labor union. But that doesn’t mean these workers can’t have a voice.

When New York City drivers stood together and demanded change alongside the Machinists Union, they created the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) which represents over 45,000 Uber drivers. IDG members won the strongest termination appeals process in the nation, a modest raise to the minimum rate per trip, and faster response times for contacting the company. Now New York City drivers are the only workers in America who meet with Uber management regularly to raise important workplace issues. New York must not legalize ride-sharing without upstate drivers having a voice in the workplace.

State lawmakers should also establish a ride-sharing oversight board to monitor earnings rules, enforcement and working conditions of the ride-sharing industry. A central board whose members are balanced between the interests of labor, companies and the public could collect unbiased data to regulate the industry while maintaining the flexibility that would be difficult to achieve in the Legislature.

Finally, New York must level the playing field for ride-sharing passengers by eliminating the nearly 9 percent state sales tax on each fare. Companies use this tax to unfairly cut into the drivers’ share. Taxi and livery passengers are exempt from this sales tax; ride-sharing should be, too.

If Uber and Lyft want to operate upstate on the promise of job creation, let’s make sure those jobs have basic protections. New Yorkers and our labor unions have a sacred history of protecting the working class, and as the job landscape shifts we must act to ensure that no worker is left without a voice. New York must seize this unique opportunity and set the precedent for a more responsible ride-sharing industry.

Jim Conigliaro Jr. of Brooklyn is the founder of the Independent Drivers Guild and serves as general counsel and a director of the International Association of Machinists District 15.

Read more:


Uber drivers: JFK airport lacks sufficient bathroom access

AMNY | Vin Barone

When drivers for Uber need to use the bathroom at John F. Kennedy Airport, they reverse-park their car in the Cell Phone Lot, pop the trunk and turn to the lot’s chain link fence.

It’s the most discreet way for a male driver to relieve himself without leaving the airport entirely and sacrificing his spot on the lengthy, Uber pick-up queue. And if you’re a woman, forget it.

“It’s barbaric,” said Valerie Brathwaite, a Jamaica, Queens, resident who has driven for Uber for two years, during a recent trip to the lot. “Obviously, there is no place for a woman to relieve herself when she’s waiting for a ride. If you leave, then you lose your place.”

Accessing a restroom has always been challenging for cabbies and black car drivers in New York City. They often have to weigh missing out on fares, or possibly collecting a hefty parking ticket to find a restroom.

Recently, the surge of drivers for Uber and Lyft has presented new problems on this front—particularly at regional airports, like John F. Kennedy and Newark, where there are facilities for taxi drivers, but no options for the growing number of black car drivers.

“Uber drivers are so new that the infrastructure hasn’t caught up,” said Ryan Price, executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild, a Machinists Union affiliate that represents the company’s drivers in New York City.

The guild launched a petition Thursday to rally for bathroom access at JFK. Price said the guild has requested the Port Authority to install and maintain some form of portable restroom in the Cell Phone Lot.

Read the full article here:


Uber drivers fired in New York can now appeal before a panel of their peers

Quartz | Allison Griswold

Uber has fought hard against the claim that its drivers are employees. But in most of the US, the company retains a very employer-like power—the right to unilaterally fire workers from the Uber platform.

This being the new digital economy, of course, Uber doesn’t think of this as firing. Rather, the company calls it deactivation. Uber can “deactivate” drivers for anything from misconduct to poor passenger ratings. It’s one reason the company’s five-star ratings system is notoriously inflated; drivers will sometimes beg passengers for a perfect review if their score has dropped precipitously low. In most cities, drivers who have been kicked off Uber’s platform have little recourse.

Until now. This month, the company finalized an agreement to let its more than 40,000 drivers in New York appeal deactivation decisions, in front of a panel of their peers.

The announcement comes six months after Uber first agreed to implement an appeals process, part of its recognition of the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), a group that advocates for Uber drivers in New York.

Read the full article here:



Uber drivers go to war against self-driving cars

MarketWatch | Caitlin Huston

While Uber Technologies Inc. sees the launch of its self-driving car program as a step forward in transportation, its drivers are not so sure.

Uber announced Wednesday that it had begun a pilot program of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh for select passengers. Right now, the driverless cars come with a human engineer who intervenes when necessary, but drivers fear a future in which they will be entirely replaced by software and sensors.

Jim Conigliaro Jr., founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, which represents 35,000 Uber drivers in the New York City area, said he found the launch “concerning” particularly because Uber has been working with regulators to allow ride-hailing in cities on the premise that it brings jobs to the community.

“We don’t expect Uber to move to driverless cars in New York City anytime soon, but they can expect we would launch an aggressive campaign, the likes of which they have yet to see, to halt such a move,” Conigliaro Jr. said in an email.

Conigliaro added that New York City currently bans driverless cars and his group would “aggressively fight” to keep those laws in place. New York law stipulates that drivers must have one hand on the steering wheel at all time, a stronger standard than other states.

Read the full article here: