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:
Uber announced an agreement on Tuesday with a prominent union to create an association for drivers in New York that would establish a forum for regular dialogue and afford them some limited benefits and protections — but that would stop short of unionization.
The association, which will be known as the Independent Drivers Guild and will be affiliated with a regional branch of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union, is the first of its kind that Uber has officially blessed, although Uber drivers have formed a number of unsanctioned groups in cities across the country.
“We’re happy to announce that we’ve successfully come to agreement with Uber to represent the 35,000 drivers using Uber in New York City to enhance their earning ability and benefits,” said James Conigliaro Jr., the guild founder and assistant director and general counsel at the International Association of Machinists District 15, which represents workers in the Northeast.
The agreement is Uber’s latest attempt to assuage mounting concerns from regulators and drivers’ groups about the company’s labor model, which treats drivers as independent contractors.
Read the full article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/11/technology/uber-agrees-to-union-deal-in-new-york.html