On Tuesday morning thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers with the Independent Drivers Guild led a slow vehicle procession over the Brooklyn Bridge and up to Gracie Mansion to call for the Mayor and City Council’s help in response to new app changes from Uber and Lyft in New York City that will harm drivers’ ability to make a living. Approximately 6,000 drivers participated in the action which slowed rush hour traffic to a near stand still in a procession that stretched across the city at times covering the full length from the Brooklyn Bridge up FDR Drive to Gracie Mansion.
Starting on Tuesday Uber launched new policies to kick drivers off the apps between trips and in areas of lower demand in order to avoid paying drivers as required by New York City’s pay regulations. Lyft enacted a similar policy earlier this summer to protests from the Drivers Guild. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has failed to take action, so the Drivers Guild is calling for the Mayor and City Council to stop the apps from violating the pay rules in an attempt to scam drivers out of fair pay. The Guild, a Machinists Union affiliate representing and advocating for New York’s 80,000 app-based drivers, led a two year campaign to win the nation’s first minimum pay rate for Uber and Lyft drivers. Rules which the apps are now violating.
“Uber and Lyft are flouting New York City’s driver pay rules to avoid paying drivers what they have earned and the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has done nothing to stop them. Today drivers are saying: We will not be ignored. We are calling on the Mayor and City Council to step in and help us fight back against the app companies. More than 1,000 Uber and Lyft drivers logged off the apps to take part in a procession over the Brooklyn Bridge and through Manhattan to Gracie Mansion today to protest the app companies and demand action from the city,” said Brendan Sexton, Executive Director of the IDG, a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 80,000 app based drivers in NYC. “For months we warned that if the city failed to take enforcement action against Lyft for violating the pay rules, that the other apps would follow suit and drivers’ pay would suffer. Already thousands of drivers are struggling to pay their bills because Lyft is blocking them from the app.
Now with Uber following suit more than 80,000 New York City families will pay the price if the city refuses to stand up for drivers and crackdown on the app companies.” Council Member Brad Lander who sponsored the law requiring a minimum pay rate for Uber and Lyft drivers has also spoken out against the app companies’ actions and voiced his support for the drivers today. “Kicking drivers off the app between rides and controlling where and when drivers can work directly undermines Uber and Lyft’s pretense of employing independent contractors who set their own hours. Far from providing flexible work schedules and a solution to transit deserts, Uber and Lyft are forcing drivers to avoid serving low-income outer boroughs and limiting their ability to make a living wage, in violation of the spirit of NYC Council’s ground-breaking legislation to guarantee for-hire drivers a minimum hourly wage.
These are the same companies that have been arguing that they don’t control their drivers’ work and it isn’t central to their business model. Uber and Lyft can’t have it both ways. Either recognize drivers as employees entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay, health insurance and all the rights that entails, or follow the law we passed to ensure that drivers make a fair wage,” said Council member Brad Lander.
Today’s protest shows growing driver anger at the app companies and the city’s failure to protect driver pay. Just last week more than 100 IDG members gathered at CIty Hall to call for the city to abolish the TLC due to its failure to stand up for drivers, including on this issue of enforcing the pay rules. The Guild also called for the city to pass a Drivers’ Bill of Rights, which specifically included blocking apps from trying to get around the pay rules.
For months Lyft has been kicking New York City drivers off the app to avoid paying them and the Independent Drivers Guild has been calling on the city to take aggressive enforcement action, warning that without enforcement other apps may follow suit. On Friday, just days after more than 100 IDG members rallied at City Hall calling for action, Uber announced in an email to drivers that it would indeed begin the same practice to flout the city’s pay rules on Tuesday.
In June, the Guild wrote a letter to the City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission calling for enforcement on this issue and drivers testified to this issue in July calling attention to the fact that Lyft was using this policy to further enrich the company by giving preferential access to drivers who pay them upwards of $400 per week to rent a vehicle from Lyft’s Express Drive program. However, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission failed to act and failed to include any further regulatory guidance during its summer rule making, despite having the clear opportunity to do so.