"This victory belongs to yellow cab, green cab, livery, black car, Uber and Lyft drivers who united together in our union to transform our shared struggle and heartbreak into hope and strength."
(New York, NY) On Wednesday, August 8 the New York City Council voted to enact first-of-its-kind legislation regulating the App-dispatch sector, including Uber and Lyft. NYTWA members have been campaigning non-stop over several months and have been sounding the alarm about the economic crisis among drivers in every sector for years. Six New York City drivers have committed suicide in recent months, unable to survive the crushing poverty brought on by the over saturation of for-hire-vehicles on our streets.
NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai released the following statement:
"This victory belongs to Douglas, to Abdul, to Nicanor, to Alfredo, to Kenny, to Danilo. This victory belongs to the thousands of NYTWA members scraping by to feed their families, who took time away from their cars, losing precious and hard fought income to be on the streets standing together and standing up for each other. This victory belongs to our brothers and sisters who pulled over to the side of the road to call City Council members during their grueling 14 hour shifts. This victory belongs to yellow cab, green cab, livery, black car, Uber and Lyft drivers who united together in our union to transform our shared struggle and heartbreak into hope and strength.And this victory belongs to New Yorkers and our allies who have stood with us to say, not one more death, not one more fallen driver crushed by poverty and despair.
"Thousands of NYTWA members have marched and rallied, have stood together in the blazing sun, in rainstorms, joining us us after sleepless nights and days behind the wheel. Our activism created the momentum to regulate app-dispatch companies for the very first time. What happened today didn't just set a precedent for New York City, it set a precedent for the entire world as app companies like Uber and Lyft use technological innovation to return us to a time of sweated labor, destroying lives and livelihoods across the planet.
"Six New York City drivers have committed suicide in recent months, including two livery drivers, a black car driver, a yellow cab lease driver and two yellow cab owner-drivers, unable to survive the economic crisis brought on by the over saturation of for-hire-vehicles on our streets. Uber and Lyft have spent millions of dollars lobbying, running ad campaigns of disinformation and trying to push their agenda of libertarian anti-regulation zealotry. Today, New York City said, no more. We cannot be bought. Workers must come before a corporate agenda of greed at all costs.
"Today, a workforce of over 100,000 men and women, a workforce of immigrants and people color, finally have a reason to hope for an end to this crisis. Today we took the first step. Tomorrow we will continue to fight."
WHAT THE CITY COUNCIL BILLS DO:
The package of bills approved Wednesday include a 12-month cap on new For-Hire-Vehicle licenses, with an exception for wheelchair accessible vehicles, a minimum pay requirement for app drivers, and give authority to the Taxi and Limousine Commission to regulate minimum rates of fare in all sectors.
The council introduced another package of bills that also address NYTWA's demands including, the creation of a health and benefits fund for drivers in every sector, financial assistance for yellow cab owner-drivers and regulations on FHV car leasing expenses to stop predatory lending.
Below is the list of our demands that we've been pushing for over a year and what we WON today and what is still to come:
CAP the number of for-hire-vehicles clogging New York City streets. Council set to vote on a 12-month cap with the exception of wheelchair accessible vehicles.
Set the yellow and green cab meter as the minimum fare rate across the industry in order to establish a wage floor, so no company can lower rates on drivers' backs. Council bills give the Taxi and Limousine Commission the authority to regulate minimum rates of fare.
Establish fair labor standards across the industry- including caps on driver expenses to end predatory lending in this new market which has been unregulated for five years. Cap App company commissions so that FHV drivers get at least 80 percent of whichever is higher - the fare quoted to passenger or the metered rate. Council bill PASSED Wednesday gives the TLC authority to regulate minimum earnings for App drivers. We fought to ensure the final bill would not lock drivers in at minimum wage. Council set to introduce a bill to cap vehicle expenses.
Program for Yellow Cab Medallion Owner-Drivers struggling with expenses as much as $6,000/month with 80% of loans under water. The city can call on lenders to lower interest rates and extend payments, waive licensing fees and find emergency grants to avoid foreclosures and bankruptcies. The Council must also establish a commission to oversee predatory lending and stop inflated values. Council introduced a bill to provide financial assistance to struggling yellow cab owner-drivers.
Raise fare rates so drivers have a chance at economic recovery after five years of straight loss. Once the Taxi and Limousine Commission establish one rate of fare across all sectors, then we will fight for an increase so drivers can finally get a raise!
No Congestion Pricing on Drivers' backs! In the midst of this crisis, Albany passed a Congestion Pricing plan lobbied for by Wall Street. It's aimed at further destabilizing the taxi industry that has contributed over $1 billion toward the MTA since 2009 and rewarding Uber, Lyft business model that takes aim directly at mass transit. This fight is still to come!
Health and Benefits Fund, including retirement for all drivers and mental health resources. Council introduced a bill to establish a health and wellness fund for drivers in all sectors.
Regulate App Companies. Don't scapegoat App Drivers. No fees on drivers' backs. No one-App restriction. We got the fees on app drivers removed from the bills!
NYTWA members' actions this week leading up to Wednesday's City Council vote included:
On Monday, NYTWA Uber and Lyft driver members led a rally at Uber/Lyft headquarters along with NYTWA members who drive yellow, green, black, and livery cars. On the same day, NYTWA member and Uber driver Tidiane Samassa published an OpEd in the New York Daily News in support of the cap:
"I drive for Uber in New York City - and right now, the company that pays me pennies is spending millions of dollars to try to stop the City Council from passing a cap on new for-hire vehicles and other bills that would help me feed my family and keep our apartment."
On Tuesday, families of the drivers who committed suicide spoke out in support of the cap so that no one else is pushed to suicide from the crisis of poverty devastating drivers across all sectors. George Schifter traveled all the way from Florida to join the protest and be present for the City Council vote. George is the brother of black car driver Doug Schifter who shot himself outside of City Hall after posting on Facebook that the unchecked saturation of NYC streets by Uber-dispatched vehicles had destroyed his livelihood.
On Monday night, the guerrilla projection collective the Illuminator projected the names of the drivers who committed suicide onto a wall in DUMBO and called for the City Council to vote yes on the cap.
Last week City Council Woman Adrienne Adams published an OpEd in the New York Times calling the FHV cap a step in the right direction for racial and economic justice. On Tuesday, the National Employment Law Project put out an opinion piece in Crains in support of the FHV cap and calling for Uber to stop interfering in our local democracy.