City Failed to Block Uber and Lyft From Flouting Pay Rules As Called for By Drivers Guild
New York, NY — Today, Uber announced the company would start manipulating access to its app for New York City drivers, in a move that violates the intent of the city’s pay rules, including blocking access to the app for some drivers and requiring them to drive to areas with more demand in order to log on. The company announced this new policy in an email to drivers today and claimed it was in response to the city’s TLC regulations and “the response from other companies, such as Lyft.” The move follows similar action by Lyft and months of complaints from the Independent Drivers Guild calling for the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to take enforcement action to block such actions as violations of the city’s pay rules. The app company actions are expected to reduce pay by failing to track all of the drivers’ working time and reducing opportunities to work as well as limiting the ability of drivers to decide where and when to work.
“The app companies are stomping all over the city’s rules and the Taxi and Limousine Commission is doing nothing to stop them. This is exactly what we told the TLC would happen,” said Brendan Sexton, Executive Director of the IDG, a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 80k app based drivers in NYC. “For months we warned that if the city failed to take enforcement action against Lyft for flouting the spirit of 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 80,000 New York City families will pay the price because the TLC refused to stand up for drivers and crackdown on the app companies.”
Over 100 IDG members gathered at City Hall earlier this week 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 a Drivers’ Bill of Rights this week, which specifically included blocking apps from trying to get around the pay rules. IDG specifically called for TLC enforcement action for months to prevent this from happening, starting with a letter in June: https://drivingguild.org/2019/06/21/letter-to-tlc/ . IDG also testified about this issue at a TLC hearingin 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. IDG also testified on this at a City Hall rally and City Council hearing this week, including testimony and screenshots from IDG member and Lyft driver Tina Raveneau, showing that she was blocked from the Lyft app for all but a four hour shift 5am-9pm Monday through Thursday, a shift that does not even work for her as a single mother of a school-aged child. The TLC failed to act and failed to include any further regulatory guidance during its summer rulemaking, despite having the clear opportunity to do so.
In the Commission’s statement of basis and purpose for the pay rules, it clearly states that these rules establish a minimum per-trip payment formula that takes into account “drivers’ total working time, both time spent driving passengers as well as time waiting for a dispatch and then traveling to pick up passengers.” Drivers are paid by mile and minute rates which are determined using a utilization rate which works as a multiplier so that drivers are compensated for the minutes and miles with and without a rider in the vehicle.
If an app company simply stops counting the miles and minutes when a driver is waiting for dispatch or traveling to their next pick up location by logging drivers out of the app, the company is not making dispatch more efficient. The drivers are still driving those miles and waiting those minutes. But now those miles and minutes are not accounted for in the pay formula, so driver pay rates go down. If all of the drivers’ miles and minutes are not counted toward the utilization rate, it means drivers aren’t getting paid for those miles and minutes.
Given the competitive, race to the bottom nature of the high volume app-based for-hire vehicle services, we urge the Commission to take swift action to stop Lyft and any other app companies tempted to follow suit from enacting policies that manipulate access to the app in a way that would obscure and fail to account for the “drivers’ total working time, both time spent driving passengers as well as time waiting for a dispatch and then traveling to pick up passengers.”
Furthermore, we call on the commission and city leaders to switch the power dynamic that enables app companies to manipulate thousands of hard working drivers in our city. By limiting new TLC drivers’ licenses instead of limiting vehicles, the city can empower the more than 70,000 New Yorkers who drive for-hire vehicles for a living. Instead of having app companies kick excess drivers off their apps, companies would have to compete for workers with better pay or policies. Amending the cap policy in this way would also give workers the option of ownership rather than being beholden to predatory leasing companies.
The Independent Drivers Guild, a Machinists Union affiliate, petitioned for and won the nation’s first minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers in NYC. IDG represents and advocates for more than 80,000 for-hire vehicle drivers in NYC.
Deactivated? Worried that low ratings are threatening your livelihood? Many riders have no idea that a rating as high as 4.6 out of 5 stars can be a fireable offense on the Uber app. The Independent Drivers Guild has a free class to help you boost your ratings and get you back on the app. ABC7 came out to check out our class – get a behind the scenes look here:
Travel at speed limit or flow of traffic – Is it worth risking your life to save a few minutes during a trip? Your decisions behind the wheel not only affect you but also the ones you love. Don’t get into an accident being inpatient, this will impact life, health and your income.
Bad Weather Driving – Please slow down!!! Safe driving is always based on weather. The first snowfall of the year showed us that any change in weather can lead to bad road conditions. Weather can turn traffic into a nightmare, due to major accidents. Remember your family needs you home safely.
Passenger Safety – Take time to make sure your passengers are picked-up and dropped off safely at their destinations. Make sure the passenger’s entrance/exit is clear of bikers, skateboarders, truckers, public officers, etc…
Traffic Laws – Some passengers will ask you to break the law, please consider the consequences of those actions, be gentle in turning them down, let your App company know this immediately.
Seat Belts – You’re not required to have passengers wear them unless they sit in the front passenger’s seat, however, if they have children please ask them to kindly have their kids wear the seat belt for their safety.
Drunken Passengers – Keep your cool, your livelihood is more important than getting upset with drunk passengers. You have the opportunity to place a sticker sign on your passenger’s windows that states “You are being videotaped and recorded.” We encourage drivers to buy camera mounts (if unable, use your camera phones) to videotape unruly customers for your protection. “Do not touch the passengers under any circumstances, please call 911 for assistance.
Street Hail – Please do not pick up street hails. In the past drivers have been shot, stabbed, and killed due to limited protections.
High Beams – Please remember that you can hinder the sight of drivers in oncoming traffic if your high beams are used incorrectly. Please turn your lights down until oncoming traffic clears your path.
Flat Tires – When you have a flat tire, please pull over to a safe location, your life matters.
The men and women behind the wheel need a minimum wage, not more fees
By Jim Conigliaro, Jr.
We all want the best for our city, from public transit improvements to reduced congestion, but the financial burden cannot be allowed to fall on those who can least afford it. Uber and Lyft drivers are hardworking men and women who are just trying to help their families climb the economic ladder, but are being exploited by an industry run amok.
Rather than allow these workers to be made scapegoats for New York’s funding and traffic woes, New York must recognize that they are falling through the holes in our safety net—and act to protect them.
Due to workers occasionally messaging us with intent to self-harm, and the recent passing of Doug Schifter, we feel it’s important to post some important resources if you or a loved one are considering self-harm.
Last year, workers came together to win the tipping option. It took about a year and 12,000 signatures, but we forced corporate giants Via and Uber to add a tipping option to their apps.
Do you remember these videos from the tipping campaign?
We would like to make similar videos about the pay campaign to tell the story of struggling Uber, Lyft, Juno, and Via drivers—but good videos are not cheap or easy. The above video along with its second video cost the IDG about $10,000.
Good Morning Chairman Rodriguez and Members of the Committee, my name is Ryan Price and I am the Executive Director of the The Independent Drivers Guild. The IDG is a nonprofit affiliate of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) that represents 50,000 working drivers throughout the for-hire vehicle industry. The IAMAW has been the only union to successfully organize black car workers in New York City, and has been doing so for twenty years. The IDG started in May of 2016. We focus on organizing workers of the app-based for-hire vehicle industry to win a more fair for-hire vehicle industry. In the past year, we’ve heard from tens of thousands of workers on how to improve the for-hire vehicle industry, and organize to realize those improvements.
On behalf of our membership, first and foremost, we thank you Mr. Chairman for your leadership and support of this very important issue that will have a significant and meaningful impact on the lives of thousands of drivers and their families. We also want to thank the the Taxi and Limousine Commission for accepting our petition to mandate a tipping option across the for-hire vehicle industry, as well as Council Member Espinal, Chin, Lander, Menchaca, Public Advocate Tish James and Comptroller Scott Stringer and many other city and state officials for supporting our long-run campaign and proposing a local law to cement our proposal to make tipping standard again.
We support Intro 1646 which mandates a gratuity option for black car and luxury limousine services. We stand in strong support of this legislation, which will provide a desperately needed raise to thousands of New York families who are struggling to make ends meet after years of pay cuts. We also urge the adoption of four essential amendments for the economic well-being of our members—91% of whom are US immigrants from more than 150 countries, 56% of whom care for a dependent, and 27% of whom lack and are seeking health insurance—and stress how vital it is that workers and regulators continue work hand-in-hand to protect New Yorkers by implementing pay regulation.
Labor platform companies like Uber, Lyft, Juno, Gett, and Via all know how important it is to have a tipping option, but those companies seem incapable of developing a policy that workers are actually asking for. Those companies know Americans are struggling to pay their debts and often feel fortunate to just have a job—so when companies slash pay, the workers are pressured to both perform more trips per hour and work dangerously long shifts just to feed their families and keep up—and the company profits more than ever.
New York City can be the global leader and be a part of curbing the culture of driver exploitation. A strong tipping regulation is potentially a $300 million dollar issue for New York City for-hire vehicle workers and their families. We urge New York’s City Council Members and the Taxi and Limousine Commission to strengthen the driver protections they have proposed and ensure fair and consistent application of the tipping option for all for hire vehicle drivers through these four actions:
Mandate parity with the Taxi industry by requiring the tip options be 20%, 25%, 30%, or other—and offer customers the option to select a preset tip percentage to be automatically applied across all trips on that platform.
Bar any additional hurdles to tipping or notification of the tipping option. For example, companies should be prohibited from requiring customers to rate a driver’s service at a certain level before being able to give gratuity.
The option to tip must be available for a minimum of twenty-four hours.
Gratuity must be classified as completely separate from a worker’s pay. That way companies cannot take a cut of a worker’s gratuity, and gratuity cannot count toward “incentives”—therefore acting as an effective tipped wage. This will also ensure the estimated $300 million in gratuities per year would stay in the hands of New Yorkers rather than being raided by multinational corporations.
We again thank you for your support and request the swift passage of Intro 1646 and thank you for supporting New York City for-hire vehicle workers.
Thank you and I am available for any questions the committee may have
The Independent Drivers Guild is a Machinists Union affiliate representing app-based drivers. We are Uber, Lyft, Via, Juno, Gett workers united for a fair for-hire vehicle industry.