NEW YORK—Uber and Lyft drivers shut off their apps for two hours on May 8 protesting for higher wages and job security. They later rallied outside the app companies’ headquarters.
The minimum wage for app drivers in New York City was increased to $17 per hour in February. Lyft filed a lawsuit against the minimum wage $5 increase—but failed. Despite new minimum wage, drivers believe that the increase isn’t enough.
According to a report by JP Morgan Chase, the monthly revenue for app company drivers in New York City was 36 percent lower in 2018 than in 2013. Bridgeport, Connecticut, saw the largest drop: 87%.
The NYTWA also demanded that app companies regulate the fare, guaranteeing that 80-85% of the fare go to the driver.
Another demand drivers are making is an end to “unfair deactivations.” Uber has a policy, where if a driver’s rating—which is calculated by a rider-based star system—falls under their respective city’s minimum, Uber will deactivate that driver’s account.
Omed Joya, a driver for Lyft, said that others are being wrongly deactivated. Joya is part of a private union, #DriversUniteNYC, whose members have been reported for drunk driving by riders.
The problem is, he said, they are all Muslim and abstain from alcohol.
“So they’ve been accused by customers because Uber gives them free rides if they have a bad experience,” said Joya. “Those drivers, they know that … Then they will accuse someone, ‘Oh, he was drunk.’
— NYC Drivers Unite! (@NYCDriversunite) April 29, 2019
According to Joya, Uber does not investigate if someone is drunk; but online, Uber states that no “deactivation decision is taken lightly or without investigation.” There are “zero tolerance violations” which cannot be appealed.
Uber does plan to create an appeals process for “most contentious cases,” reads its legal page.
Uber and Lyft Not the Problem?
While the crowd rallied against the companies, Raul Rivera told us that the companies aren’t the problem. Rather, it is the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC)—the commission that certifies drivers to work for ride-share companies in New York City.
Rivera said it needs to be reformed because professional drivers are not well represented.
“We need three drivers in the commission panel: One from the yellow [taxi], one from the green [taxi], and one from the app sector,” said Rivera. “We need a certified IT person so they can understand how these apps work.”
— NYC Drivers Unite! (@NYCDriversunite) April 27, 2019
But most importantly, he said “we need a cap on drivers.”
As he held up his TLC license, he explained that—unlike other places, such as New Jersey—all drivers need the license to work for app companies in the city.
App company jobs aren’t for side money in New York City, he said. In this city, people have to get drug tested, get fingerprinted, take a 24-hour class, get trained, and, of course, purchase the license.
The total cost is $596.50 to $696,50 for a three year license. That does not include what they may pay in transportation and meals when completing the tasks listed above.
Rivera said he’s trying to defend the value and investments of New York City’s professional drivers. He believes companies with too many drivers will devalue what they have.