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: http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-opinion/article/Ride-share-can-t-have-a-free-ride-10806833.php
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).
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:
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:
- Add a wait timer to all trips
- Fair compensation for Long Haul Fares
- End Earnings Theft
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.
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.
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: http://qz.com/843967/uber-drivers-fired-in-new-york-can-now-appeal-before-a-panel-of-their-peers/
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:
- There should be due process like a transparent appeals process when Uber responds to customer feedback (or otherwise) and issues a refund which steals money from drivers.
- UberX drivers should be able to opt-out of UberPOOL.
- An increased fare on long trips could help cover the costs of deadheading (when you don’t have a customer with you) back to the city.
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.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to fill out this survey yet, we need to know which companies you want to talk to about getting basic protections. Protections like: an appeals against deactivation;
companies paying for benefits;
systems to protect you against company theft;
a seat at the table with company management to improve working conditions;
really anything. We need to use the power of working people to get company management to hear workers.
Which app companies are most important for us to bring to the table? Take this survey to let us know which apps you work for.
A very common issue we hear from drivers is a lack of parking in NYC.
That lack of parking makes it difficult for drivers like you to take breaks, use the bathroom, and the like, which can lead to painful health issues for long time drivers.
Tell us – where should the TLC place For Hire Vehicle parking in the city?
Last week, IDG Staff met with the Taxi and Limousine Commission to discuss getting more accessible bathrooms, or at the least, more FHV-only parking throughout the city. They agree, and would be interested in joining us in pushing the NYC Department of Transportation to convert Taxi stands to FHV stands and install more FHV stands throughout the city. But we need to know what the most important spots to get parking are.
Let us know where you think there should be new FHV stands here.
Thank you for your input.
In our last poll to you, 96% of members agreed that the Independent Drivers Guild should support the proposed NYC working driver’s healthcare bill.
We hear you, and we are working on it.
As I’m sure you’ve seen, today we launched a petition asking the City Council to move forward on the bill. Please sign it. Please share it. Please talk to your fellow drivers about it.
The only way we will win something like this is by bringing the community together, then applying pressure to elected officials.
Share and sign the petition here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/move-forward-on-the-fhv-healthcare-bill?source=voteemail