City app-based drivers seek minimum wage increase

Uber and Lyft drivers are petitioning for ride-hail minimum pay rate.
Photo by Mary Altaffer/AP
By Gina Martinez

More than 15,000 city Uber and Lyft drivers have signed a petition calling on the city to pass a law raising the minimum wage in New York City by 37 percent, according to the Independent Drivers Guild.

The IDG, which represents over 60,000 drivers, submitted its proposal to the Taxi and Limousine Commissions last week asking for a raise for drivers and a cap on new drivers. The guild said they settled on the 37 percent because as of now the average work day for drivers is 11 hours a day and the guild’s goal is for workers to be able to make a living in an eight-hour day. In addition to a raise, the Guild is seeking a cap on new TLC-licensed drivers. The number of drivers has outpaced demand, forcing drivers to work longer and longer shifts and increasing unpaid downtime between fares. The cap will help current drivers make a better living while reducing traffic congestion, according to the IDG.

The guilt said a cap on drivers is the labor-friendly way to address the overcrowded streets and improve the ability for all for-hire drivers to make a living.

IDG cited an MIT study that found that a significant portion of Uber and Lyft Drivers make less than minimum wage after expenses. The study said that in New York City, where nine out of 10 drivers are their household’s main source of income, many drivers make less than minimum wage after expenses.

IDG founder Jim Conigliaro, Jr. said after years of pay cuts and exploitation, city ride-hail drivers can’t make ends meet and many are earning less than minimum wage after they pay expenses.

“We are calling on the city to close this minimum wage loophole and enact a livable minimum pay rate for app-based drivers,” he said. “We cannot allow multibillion-dollar corporations to profit off the labor of New York workers without paying them a fair rate.”

IDG member Aziz Bah is an immigrant from Senegal working as a driver to support his two children.

“We are making much less than we were just a few years ago — and companies like Uber and Lyft are pocketing more,” he said. “To try to make up the difference, drivers are forced to work longer and longer hours, but we are still unable to make ends meet.”

The city is required to respond to rule petitions within 60 days, either agreeing to grant the petition and initiate rule making by a specific date or denying the request.

Last year, IDG members petitioned for and won a New York City law and a TLC rule that forced Uber and Via to add a tipping option to their apps. Guild members and the TLC have had ongoing discussions on the need for pay protection rules since shortly after the IDG’s launch in 2016.

“Uber is always working to improve the driver experience, most recently through our 180 Days of Change Campaign, which included improvements to earnings like fees for returned lost items, extra POOL pick-up fares, and tipping,” an Uber spokeswoman said. “We have regular meetings with the Independent Drivers Guild to listen to and discuss issues that matter most to them.”

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance were not so happy with this new petition. They called IDG “Uber’s company-financed pseudo union” and said the guild wants to regulate app-based drivers separately, creating divisions between workers and giving Uber a free pass to continue destroying taxi drivers full-time profession.

“We reiterate to the mayor and Taxi and Limousine Commission that we need a livable income and a halt to the race to the bottom, not proposals aimed at protecting Uber’s bottom line,” the group said in a statement. “NYTWA is calling for the yellow and green cab regulated meter to be the minimum rate across the industry to establish a wage floor for all drivers. Uber and Lyft already charge rates to passengers higher than the rate by which they compensate drivers. So requiring the regulated taxi meter rate as the floor protects drivers from being undercut.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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