Union-Represented Taxi Drivers Seek City Protection From Uber In New York City
(NEW YORK CITY) - More than 100 Taxi Drivers and supporters rallied outside City Hall earlier this week, demanding that Uber and Lyft roll back their 15% fare cuts from last month and urging the city to enact regulations to protect driving as a full-time profession.
“We are ‘not going to let some Wall Street darling’ come into our city and ‘wreak havoc’ on a workforce that labors twelve hours a day, sixty hours a week,” Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance told the crowd.
The Union, along with African-American Cab Drivers represented by District 15 of the International Association of Machinists (IAM), want the City Council to pass laws and the Taxi and Limousine Commission to create regulations that would set a minimum fare for app-based rides, guarantee app-company drivers a minimum number of trips and give passengers the option to tip, and require the companies to show that new drivers can make a Living Wage before expanding their workforce, Desai said.
They also want to establish a fund to cover Workers’ Compensation, Disability, Retirement and basic Health Benefits for Drivers, said James Conigliaro of District 15.
Union Officials and their allies have identified a number of potentially sympathetic Council Members, but “we haven’t even started that outreach,” Desai said after the rally.
Uber’s fare cuts - which provoked a three-day Strike by drivers in January - and commission increases have reduced drivers’ incomes by 45% over the last two years, Driver Inder Parmar told the crowd.
The company claims its lower fares will attract more business, but “Uber doesn’t make rides. It’s the ‘same’ customers,” said long-time cabbie Mostafa Abdal, 60, of Brooklyn.
Abdal, who had been driving a yellow cab for more than 30 years, said he switched to Uber after seeing ads that drivers could make $1,600 a week - ads he now calls “propaganda” and “garbage.”
He quit a month ago and went back to a Yellow Cab.
In Orange County, California, Desai told the crowd, the initial “drop” is zero and the fare 64 cents a mile - and Drivers make less than $5 an hour after expenses.
“We’ve ‘seen this movie before,’” said Kyle Bragg of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ, which brought a couple dozen Members in solidarity. “We will ‘not buy tickets’ to the ‘race to the bottom.’”
People like the cheapness and convenience of app-based cabs, Congliaro said, but “we have to think about ‘what it does to our society,’” calling Uber “a company that’s proven ‘they’re not into laws and regulations’ stopping them.”
“(Uber) claims it’s ‘not an employer’ and that the Drivers are ‘independent contractors,’” he added, but “it ‘controls’ the rates, it ‘controls’ the dispatching of cars, and it ‘controls’ who gets work.”
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