Partner to Help Thousands of Ride-Hailing Drivers Earn College Degrees
New York, NY — SUNY Empire State College and the Independent Drivers Guild today announced a new partnership to help more than 200,000 for-hire drivers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut advance their education by reducing the cost and time required for degree completion through SUNY Empire’s personalized, flexible model.
Through SUNY Empire’s Corporate and Community Partnership program, the college will waive the application fee and provide a presidential scholarship for all eligible Guild members, employees, retirees, and family members who enroll at SUNY Empire. Participants will also benefit from SUNY Empire’s prior learning assessment process, which awards college credit for work and life experience, reducing the overall cost and time needed to complete a degree.
SUNY Empire offers more than 110 online degrees, including associate and bachelor’s degrees in labor studies, a liberal arts program through its Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies. Founded at the same time the college was established in 1971, the school was named in honor of Van Arsdale, a lifelong advocate of workers’ rights who shaped organized labor in New York. Its mission today is to ensure wage-earning adults have an opportunity to pursue a college degree through flexible, worker-friendly academic programs.
The Guild is a Machinist Union affiliate with a mission to establish better working conditions and benefits for app-hailing and ride-sharing drivers. The Guild advocates for benefits for its members, including legal support, free counseling and telemedicine benefits, and basic protections, like securing the nation’s first minimum wage for app-based drivers in New York City. In recent months, the Guild has focused its attention on increased health guidelines and safety measures to ensure drivers and passengers are protected during the pandemic.
“This partnership could not come at a better time. The COVID-19 pandemic has dislocated tens of thousands of for-hire vehicle drivers from their primary livelihood,” said Erik Forman, Education Director for the Independent Drivers Guild. “Whether drivers are looking for the knowledge and skills for their next step in life, or to build worker power to change the gig economy, this partnership between the Independent Drivers Guild and SUNY Empire State College opens the doors to the world of opportunity that education provides.”
“As the nature of work and the workforce continues to shift, higher education must also adapt to remain relevant and responsive to the needs of today’s workers and learners,” said SUNY Empire State College Officer in Charge Beth Berlin. “This new partnership between SUNY Empire and the Independent Drivers Guild will make it easier for thousands of drivers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to earn their degrees while working. Thank you to the Guild and the faculty and staff at SUNY Empire for creating this far-reaching partnership.”
“SUNY Empire faculty and staff at the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies who develop curriculum recognize the importance of organized labor,” said SUNY Empire State College Provost Meg Benke. “We are all looking forward to working with the Independent Drivers Guild to deliver high-quality educational programs to these hard-working drivers.”
“We are excited to have this partnership with SUNY Empire and the Harry Van Arsdale School of Labor,” said Executive Director of the Independent Drivers Guild Brendan Sexton. “Ninety-one percent of our members are born in a country other than the U.S. There are many roadblocks to continuing, completing or trying to get a college degree, particularly for immigrants. With this program, some roadblocks have been reduced or removed. Our members not only have a chance to continue their education, but will get credit for previous education in their countries and their life experiences, and this will afford the opportunity for them to be leaders in their workplace, communities and unions.”
For information on the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies, please click here.
About the Independent Drivers Guild
The Independent Drivers Guild is a Machinists Union affiliate that represents over 80,000 For-Hire Vehicle drivers in New York City and advocates for more than 200,000 across NY, NJ, and CT. The IDG is the first nonprofit worker center to negotiate a seat at the table with a rideshare company and the first to offer crucial new protections and essential benefits while building worker power.
We are drivers in solidarity fighting for a better work environment. Together we are a powerful force to win driver-friendly policies. Together we have contact with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers daily. Together we are a service that generates millions of dollars. With driver activism and solidarity, we will win—and can drive with dignity.
We believe that the power of workers banding together. With the Guild, we can band together and win better working conditions and increase working drivers’ earnings now. If you’re a working driver in NYC, become a voting member, join a committee and let’s get organizing. Sign up to learn more at DrivingGuild.org
About SUNY Empire State College
SUNY Empire State College educates 16,000 students per year in person, online, and through a blend of both, at campuses and learning hubs located in every region of New York state, and at eight international sites worldwide. Together with one of SUNY Empire’s 800 faculty mentors, each student designs their own individualized pathway to a college degree that accommodates their schedule and awards credit for prior college-level learning. SUNY Empire awards more than 3,000 degrees annually and 94 percent of graduates stay in New York state. Today, more than 89,000 SUNY Empire alumni are entrepreneurs, veterans, and active members of the military, professional athletes, teachers, medical professionals, and leaders in their field, as well as in their communities. To learn more, visit www.esc.edu.