Independent Drivers Guild Warns City Proposals To Limit For-Hire Vehicles Could Devastate Thousands of Families
Proposed Rules Are Already Harming Thousands of Low Income Drivers And Could Devastate Thousands More Families if Passed
Prepared Testimony: IDG Testimony
New York, NY — The Independent Drivers Guild today warned New York City officials that unintended consequences of proposed rules are already harming thousands of low income families and could devastate many more if passed without significant changes. New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission held a hearing Tuesday on two proposals to regulate the city’s for hire vehicles. The IDG urged the commission to hold off on a vote on these proposals.
Instead, the Guild is urging the city to limit new TLC drivers licenses, a policy that reduces congestion without devastating the more than 70,000 low income New York City families who rely on the income of app-based for-hire vehicle drivers.
“Unintended consequences of these proposed rules are already harming thousands of low income families across our city and could devastate thousands more if passed. We urge the Commission to hold off on voting on these proposals,” said IDG Executive Director Brendan Sexton.
“A permanent vehicle cap incentivizes a return to yellow taxi-like twelve hours shifts, which would be a huge step backward in working conditions for thousands of the city’s professional drivers. And Lyft’s response to the cruising cap proposal is already harming thousands of drivers ability to make a living. It would be irresponsible for this commission to add yet another rule regarding for-hire vehicle utilization before we have even seen the impact of the utilization rules passed in December which go into effect in February,” added Sexton.
The Independent Drivers Guild campaigned for more than two years to win the protection of a minimum wage in New York City and drivers are concerned that the city’s new proposed rules could wipe away those gains for thousands of drivers.
NYC Proposal 1: Extend the “Vehicle Cap” Indefinitely- In June, city officials announced their intent to make the cap on TLC for-hire vehicle licenses permanent. The city council passed a one year moratorium on for-hire vehicle licenses in August 2018. This proposal would extend the vehicle cap indefinitely. The city anticipates this proposal would have a very limited effect on congestion but would cause decreased service and increased wait times in Manhattan. With the lack of affordable options, the TLC also assumes the number of app-based drivers sharing vehicles will triple, which would be a huge step backward in working conditions for the city’s professional drivers.
IDG’s Take From Executive Director Brendan Sexton: “The vehicle cap is a flawed policy. Since the vehicle cap went into effect, the TLC has licensed more than 12,000 new FHV drivers, essentially authorizing as much as 50 million more FHV hours on our streets. The unlimited growth in drivers makes it harder for all for-hire vehicle drivers to make a living. The vehicle cap didn’t stop that growth. What the vehicle cap does is empower predatory leasing and app companies at the expense of low income drivers. Because of the vehicle cap, thousands of existing drivers and all new TLC drivers are stuck renting vehicles instead of licensing their own vehicle. These drivers pay thousands more to rent than it would cost to own — and have no vehicle at the end to show for it. While we could stomach a one year cap, an extended cap is a bad long term policy that empowers predatory leasing companies and app companies at the expense of thousands of New York’s low income drivers.”
IDG’s Take From Member & App-based Driver Tina Raveneau: “The city’s so-called vehicle cap is making drivers like me slaves to the leasing and app companies. It has cost me thousands of dollars already and must not be extended. I am paying thousands of dollars more per year to rent my TLC vehicle than it would cost me to finance my own vehicle. I am a single mom, struggling to get by. Because of this rule, I am stuck throwing my money at these big leasing companies, when I could be building equity in a vehicle I could actually keep – and I am not alone.” [Raveneau is an IDG member who lives in Brooklyn and has been an app-based driver for two and a half years, driving primarily for Lyft but occasionally for Uber.]
NYC Proposal 2: New Cruising Cap To Limit FHVs in Manhattan – The city is proposing to cap the percentage of time Uber, Lyft, Juno and Via drivers can drive in Manhattan’s “core”. The city anticipates this will reduce service and increase wait times in Manhattan.
IDG’s Take From Executive Director Brendan Sexton: “First of all, the city already passed a rule like this in December with company specific utilization rates which haven’t even gone into effect yet – they go into effect in February. To add yet another rule regarding for-hire vehicle utilization before we have even seen the impact of the first rules makes no sense at all.
Second of all, we have already gotten a preview of how the app companies will react to this rule and it is bad news for drivers. Without a cap on drivers, the apps are empowered to manipulate driver access to their apps for the companies’ gains. The city assumed that the app companies first response would be to cut their own profits to a minimum before they start restricting driver access. But it comes as little surprise that the apps are protecting profits at the expense of drivers. App companies have already begun blocking access to the apps for certain drivers, leaving thousands of drivers desperate, behind on bills, and not knowing when they will be able to work next. Lyft, for example, has launched this policy but exempted those drivers who rent or lease vehicles through Lyft’s own leasing program, incentivizing drivers to pay Lyft upwards of $400 per week and further enriching the company.
The city should hit a hard pause on this proposal … at least until we see how the utilization rate policy which starts in February shakes out.”
IDG’s Take From App-based Driver Tina Raveneau: “We already got a preview of how the apps are going to respond to this policy and it’s no surprise to us that drivers are the ones to pay the price. Lyft already reacted to these proposed rules with a policy of logging off drivers who do not rent their cars directly from Lyft. I have relied on my income as a full time Lyft driver for two and a half years and these policies are already hurting my earnings. I end up spending more time on the road driving around waiting for Lyft to let me log on than I ever did before. Without being able to work the hours I used to, I have no choice but to work even longer hours or come up short on my bills. I am scared that this cruising cap idea will make it ten times worse for drivers like me.”
IDG Policy Solution:
The IDG has long called for limiting TLC drivers licenses instead of TLC vehicle licenses. Limiting new TLC drivers would be a much more effective way of limiting for-hire vehicle hours on the street AND it would empower workers instead of harming them.
TLC Drivers are already limited to 12 hour days, so a limit on drivers is a direct way to limit for-hire vehicle hours on our streets. Vehicles, however, can be shared and, in fact, the TLC assumes that the number of shared vehicles in use by drivers for apps like Uber and Lyft will triple in the first year if the vehicle cap is extended. This makes a vehicle cap a worse policy for addressing congestion and a worse policy for workers as sharing vehicles in shift work would be a huge step backward in working conditions for app-based drivers.
“For-hire vehicle drivers have long been exploited and treated as expendable. Limiting new TLC driver licenses is a simple way to flip this dynamic and empower workers instead of empowering app companies, fleet owners, and predatory leasing companies. Limiting the labor pool will require all companies to compete to keep drivers working for them, meaning the competition shifts away from the expendable driver mentality, a race to the bottom on driver pay — and shifts to providing better working conditions, pay and benefits.” said Sexton.
The IDG is a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 70,000 app-based drivers in NYC. We are Uber, Lyft, Juno and Via Drivers United for a more fair industry. Follow us on twitter at @drivingguild
Taxi and Limousine Commission
33 Beaver St
New York, NY 10004
Dear Acting Commissioner and the Board of Commissioners,
As representatives and advocates for more than 70,000 app-based drivers in New York City we are writing to request urgent enforcement action with regard to a high volume for-hire vehicle company in violation of Commission rules.
Yesterday, Lyft informed its New York City drivers that effective June 27, 2019, the company will be subjecting them to new rules that violate the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s pay protection rules, which passed in December of 2018 and went into effect in February of this year.
In a message to New York City drivers as well as a blog post, Lyft announced that it plans to eliminate driver access to the app in periods and areas of low demand and will require drivers who wish to access the app to drive to a location of higher demand or wait until demand increases to access the app. By logging drivers off the app and requiring them to travel to an area of higher demand in order to pick up their next trip, Lyft would be shifting the costs of travel and waiting time onto the drivers and in so doing, violate this commission’s rules.
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.
Thank you in advance for your swift attention to this issue as it serves all parties to ensure there is a universal understanding of the app companies’ obligations not to obscure drivers’ working time in a way that will reduce drivers’ rightful compensation.
Independent Drivers Guild
Drivers Take Action Across US, Around the World
Three hundred members of the Independent Drivers Guild rallied outside Uber and Lyft NYC offices this morning in solidarity with drivers across the country and around the world organizing for fair pay. The Drivers Guild also led a very slow vehicle procession through the city this morning. The protest procession slowly made its way over the Brooklyn Bridge at 8 AM, through Wall Street, past the Uber office in Manhattan, and across the 59th St Bridge to the Uber and Lyft NYC driver headquarters in Queens. See all the livestream footage at Facebook.com/drivingguild and more photos shared on https://twitter.com/DrivingGuild.
“Never before have we seen so many drivers all over the world take action together. I think Uber and Lyft are more than a little nervous today that their days of paying poverty wages are numbered,” said IDG member and app-based driver Tina Raveneau. “Together we are raising our voices and today we are being heard.”
“Drivers built Uber and Lyft and it is wrong that so many drivers continue to be paid less than minimum wage while Silicon Valley investors gets rich off their labor. All Uber and Lyft drivers deserve fair pay and we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers across the nation and around the world,” said Brendan Sexton, Executive Director of the Independent Drivers Guild, a Machinists Union affiliate which represents more than 70,000 app-based drivers in NYC.
The Independent Drivers Guild led a two year campaign to win the nation’s first minimum pay rules for app-based drivers in New York City, which regulators projected would increase pay by an average of $10,000 per year. As part of that campaign, the Guild led a procession over the Brooklyn Bridge to win fair pay rules for drivers one year ago. One year later the Guild is back fighting for drivers across the nation and around the world who still make less than minimum wage.
IDG is a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 70,000 app-based drivers in NYC. The Guild led a two year campaign, amassing more than 16,000 signatures, and formally petitioned the city for the pay rules which are the nation’s first minimum wage rules for drivers for apps like Uber and Lyft. New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission projected the rules would raise pay for New York City drivers by nearly $10,000 per year.
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: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/uber-drivers-wont-accept-autonomous-cars-without-a-fight-2016-09-15
AMNY | Vin Barone
The group representing Uber drivers in New York City has launched a petition calling for the e-hail company to offer in-app tipping.
The online petition, launched Thursday by the Independent Drivers Guild, quickly surpased 1,000 signatures from the city’s pool of about 35,000 Uber drivers.
The guild hopes to put pressure on Uber to add a tip feature to its app as part of a larger public awareness campaign to remind customers that tips aren’t factored into drivers’ pay.
“In-app tipping would be a clear path to put thousands of dollars back into drivers’ pockets,” said Jim Conigliaro Jr., founder of the guild, a joint project between the Machinists Union and independent Uber drivers. “Drivers in the industry—especially drivers in the industry before Uber—derived a lot of income from tips.
“Taxi drivers have always been tipped at the end of ride,” he continued. “Black car companies typically would include tips as extra line item in their vouchers—it’s always been a part of the for-hire vehicle industry.”
The guild will be rallying over the next month, handing out flyers and distributing bar napkins with text declaring that Uber customers should be able to tip their drivers as easily as they could tip their bartenders.
Read the full article here: http://www.amny.com/transit/uber-drivers-call-for-in-app-tipping-option-in-online-petition-1.12165291
Wall Street Journal | Letter
In “Democrats vs. Democrats on the Sharing Economy” (op-ed, July 29), Allysia Finley reveals a total lack of understanding of how young adults view Uber and the gig economy. Millennials are intelligent enough to both appreciate the opportunities of the sharing economy and to aspire to make this new economy work better for workers. Young and old alike can enjoy the benefits of Uber while also wishing for its drivers to have basic protections.
For too long Uber drivers were without a voice, without a seat at the table, without protections. As the founder of the first union-affiliated organization for Uber drivers, I am proud of our work to advocate for New York City’s 35,000 Uber drivers and we stand ready to support Uber drivers struggling for better working conditions everywhere. Unions have a sacred history of standing by America’s workers and as the job landscape shifts we must remain active and engaged so that no segment of our workforce is left without a voice.
James Conigliaro Jr.
Independent Drivers Guild
New York Daily News | Dan Rivoli
Uber is getting a tip from its drivers’ group: Make it easier for passengers to tip.
The Independent Drivers Guild, which represents Uber’s 35,000 drivers in the city, is calling on the famously anti-tipping e-hail company to let passengers pay a gratuity through the company’s app instead of digging for cash at the end of a trip.
In the meantime, the guild is helping drivers get the word out that it’s OK to pay extra for good service by providing stickers that say, “Tips for service are appreciated!”
The guild is also launching a social media campaign and petition drive to show Uber that passengers will still use the service even if tipping becomes a part of the experience, said Jim Conigliaro, founder of the guild, which was created in May.
Read the full article here:
Washington Post | Fredrick Kunkle
Uber has given its blessing to a New York City drivers organization that formed as an affiliate with an established union.
The Independent Driver’s Guild launched Tuesday in partnership with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 15 in what appears to be a significant development in the six-year struggle between the San Francisco-based ride-sharing company and tens of thousands of its drivers.
The new Independent Drivers Guild, which claims an estimated 35,000 members in New York City, will give all current and future Uber drivers there a regular forum to discuss workplace issues, offer benefits such as discounted legal services, roadside assistance and life insurance, and provide an avenue to air grievances or appeal deactivation, according to a statement issued by the Machinists and Uber.
Read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/tripping/wp/2016/05/10/uber-recognizes-first-drivers-association-in-new-york-city/?utm_term=.9bb8c43ea39e
Fox 5 NY | Lida Curanaj
See the Fox 5 interview with Guild founder Jim Conigliaro Jr at: http://www.fox5ny.com/your-money/139582560-story
Wall Street Journal | Douglas MacMillan
After tangling with drivers in the courtroom and on the streets, Uber Technologies Inc. is softening its stance and giving some of them a seat at the table.
The largest ride-hailing company on Tuesday said it has agreed to work closely with a group of its drivers in New York City to give them a voice on issues such as fare changes and driver deactivations.
The drivers group hopes to create a fund to offer benefits such as paid time off and retirement savings accounts to as many as 35,000 drivers in the city, many who work full-time schedules for Uber.
The labor agreement is a conciliatory move for Uber, which has been working in recent weeks to quell unrest rippling across its army of one million drivers. Hundreds of drivers gathered at the company’s New York offices in February to protest rate reductions that have made it harder for many of them to rely on Uber as a primary source of income.
New York’s Independent Drivers Guild may represent a first step toward giving drivers a voice in the ride-hailing business. Its members will be invited to regular meetings with Uber management to raise their concerns. And they will be eligible to receive discounts on life insurance, roadside assistance and other benefits covered by the guild’s administration costs, which Uber will help to fund.
“No topic is off the table for discussion and the guild will aggressively pursue any number of ways to increase drivers earnings, benefits and protections,” said Jim Conigliaro Jr., founder of the Independent Drivers Guild.
Read the full article here: