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:


Introductory Meeting

If you’re an Uber or app-based working driver and new to the Independent Drivers Guild, come to an introductory meeting to discuss the Guild, what benefits we have available to drivers, and why working drivers like you must get involved and stay united to win a fair fare and better working conditions for all.

Let us know if you’re coming on Facebook:

The meeting will at 7pm on January 3rd at:

Black Car Fund Safety Center

38-38 Crescent Street

Long Island City, NY 11101

If you are in need of special assistance please send an email to or contact us.


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:

Press Releases

The Independent Drivers Guild Launches Campaign for JFK Bathroom

Uber Drivers’ Petition Calls For Bathroom at JFK Airport

New York, NY — There’s a problem that For Hire Vehicle drivers have been trying to address for years – there’s no place for drivers to use the bathroom at JFK airport. While passengers, taxi drivers, and even pets have access to a restroom at JFK, ridesharing drivers wait in a satellite lot with no facilities. As ridesharing drivers wait for passengers making their way through one of the world’s busiest airports, there is no safe, clean place to use the restroom.

The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) is launching a petition calling for a bathroom at JFK airport: LINK

“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,” said Sohail Rana, Uber Driver & IDG Committee Member.

“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. “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 airports are always one of the busiest locations for ridesharing drivers, but the increased travel at the holiday season means drivers will be spending even more time at JFK. Limiting access to clean restrooms and handwashing facilities is a health threat for drivers, who face increased risk of infection, as well as for the broader public.

“Ridesharing passengers would be shocked to see the conditions these drivers are subjected to,” added Conigliaro, Jr. “We invite passengers and the public to stand with us by signing the petition to correct this indignity.”

The Guild is spreading the word through emails, texts, and social media:

The IDG is a labor organization representing and advocating for more than 45,000 Uber drivers serving New York City and is an affiliate of the Machinists Union (IAMAW – District 15).



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:


Notes from the 11/29 Works Council meeting with Uber

I wanted to send you a follow up note about the results from the last Works Council survey and some notes on the meeting. If you would like to be involved in our ongoing group discussion and be the first to hear about updates, join us in Slack.

Thank you for voting on which issues should be brought up to Uber management. The top issues that you voted on were:

It’s mostly good news. In fact, the best news wasn’t on the survey, but is straight from the General Manager of Uber NY’s mouth:

“Don’t expect to see anymore price cuts”

Again, join us on Slack to get more involved with our group discussion and be the first to know when there is news.


If you want fair pay, you have to fight for it

Tomorrow, Tuesday November 29th, the Fight for $15 is organizing a National Day of Disruption at Zuccotti Park (5:30am onward), in an effort to inspire workers to come together and change the politics of the United States around wages and earnings.

But For-Hire Vehicle workers have always been left behind in the fight for a livable income.

The Independent Drivers Guild is the first and only group that has brought the Taxi and Limousine Commission to the table to consider fare protections for working drivers like you. But Uber misleads the public, and public officials, to believe that people like you take home more than $20 an hour.

We say: No way.

And so have the dozens of IDG members that have met with the Taxi and Limousine Commission. That’s why the TLC sent out an official survey last Friday–so they can have a grasp of how much money you are actually taking home.

Take the official Taxi and Limousine Commission survey now.

We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Fight for $15, and we hope you get involved with the Guild’s ongoing fight to fix the working conditions of every For-Hire Vehicle worker and ensure you’re taking home a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.


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:



Input needed: November driver council meeting with Uber

The Guild exists to give you and your fellow working drivers a direct line to Uber management to discuss the issues with your working conditions that are important to you.

Take a short survey and let us know what issues are most important to you. The most popular options will be represented by your fellow drivers at the Works Council meeting.

Here are some of the issues and ideas drivers have brought up with us in the past few weeks:

These issues were chosen in committee meetings over the last few weeks. Poll closes Friday, 11/25 at 5PM. Only New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission licensed drivers may vote.

Take this short poll and let us know what we should discuss.