Independent Drivers Guild Calls for Emergency Unemployment Payments to Gig Workers 

24 Mar 2020
IDG Crisis Response Team is Assisting Ride-Hail Drivers in Wake of Coronavirus

New York, NY — With “stay at home” mandates being enacted in various states across the country, rideshare drivers are uniquely exposed economic danger posed by COVID-19. Lax federal screening and quarantining of arriving travelers also left ride-hail drivers particularly exposed to the health dangers of COVID-19. While apps answered our call to curb the spread of the virus by suspending their “pool” feature and expanding sick pay, these individual efforts do not go far enough in ensuring the safety and financial well-being of the thousands of drivers working today.

“Ride-hail drivers were already struggling to stay afloat and dealing with widespread financial instability,” says Brendan Sexton, Executive Director of Independent Drivers Guild, a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 200,000 drivers in NY, NJ, and CT. “They are especially vulnerable now during this pandemic. Drivers are continuing to put themselves at risk to provide an essential service and are not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. We are calling for emergency unemployment compensation to provide relief to drivers and other “gig” workers, as well as an increase in testing to keep drivers safe. If we want an economy that can recover for all, we can’t afford to ignore the needs of those working in the gig economy.”

Here is a summary of our Coronavirus response efforts. This is not all inclusive.

-CORONAVIRUS VIRTUAL CRISIS RESPONSE TEAM and 24/7 HOTLINE – We have a multilingual team running our crisis response hotline for our members, including trained driver volunteers and 5 licensed social workers. We are fielding hundreds of calls from drivers seeking assistance during this crisis. Our team speaks 8 languages. We also had two webinars with drivers, walking through resources to deal with this crisis as well as our crisis response, including:

Accessing drivers free telemedicine

Protecting Your Health

Paid Sick Days

General Health Recommendations

Health Insurance

Organizing for Relief

Organizing for Relief + Volunteering to Help


Protecting Your Financial Stability

Dealing with Expenses

Household Bills

TLC Expenses

Financial Support


Solidarity and Support (Including free crisis counseling with licensed counselor)

– EXPANDED SICK PAY: We pushed both Uber and Lyft to drop the requirement of a positive COVID-19 test to get sick pay so that drivers who are sick or who are at risk can get paid to stay home and self-isolate based on a note from a licensed medical professional.

– DRIVER CRISIS OUTREACH AND GETTING AT RISK AND SICK DRIVERS OFF THE ROAD: We are doing outreach to drivers to check in on their health and wellbeing and offering assistance in many areas of need. We have been phonebanking our members starting with drivers over the age of 60, urging those at high risk to protect their health and use the expanded sick pay policy we won, guiding them through the steps to get a doctor’s note and apply for compensation with the app companies.

We also have an online intake form for drivers needing assistance and will dispatch a call back.

-FREE TELEMEDICINE: New York’s ride-hail drivers are the only Uber and Lyft drivers in the nation with free telemedicine benefits because IDG spent years researching, organizing and advocating to win them through the state’s Black Car Fund (workers comp fund). We won those benefits about a year and a half ago and as a result, amid this crisis 120,000 NY ride hail and black car drivers can be seen by a doctor through the same smart phone they need for work anyway. We urged the city, the apps and the Black Car Fund to raise awareness of this critical free benefit and they have agreed to do so, including a paid ad campaign by the Black Car Fund. We have offered to help the City expand this program to livery and taxi drivers and we are urging CT and NJ governments to fund expansion of the benefit to cover drivers in those states.


– ENDING POOL RIDES: We led the call for the apps to end pool rides or New York City to ban them in order to protect the health of drivers, riders and our communities. Uber agreed to drop pool rides, then Lyft followed suit and the mayor issued a ban. Uber has now halted pool rides globally.


-MEALS ON WHEELS VOLUNTEERS: Without enough work to go around, we organized IDG members (Uber and Lyft drivers) to volunteer making home deliveries to the elderly and vulnerable with various Meals on Wheels organizations, like Encore Community Service. We raised money on GoFundMe to compensate drivers for their expenses. We reached out to the city, state and many organizations for connecting drivers with meeting emerging needs as well as exploring opportunities for drivers to be compensated for doing this critical work. This week the city announced it would scale up this effort.


-NEGOTIATING WITH LEASING COMPANIES, BANKS AND INSURERS: We have extracted commitments from a couple of the big leasing companies, we are negotiating with banks and insurers, we are talking with state lawmakers and city and state regulators about solutions to these high recurring expenses for drivers. On an individual level our crisis hotline is connecting drivers with those who can support them in their individual negotiations with creditors. We are also having discussions with financial and credit institutions re: access to credit and lending.


– EMERGENCY RELIEF: Macro: We are pursuing emergency relief at the city, state and federal level, including unemployment compensation for gig workers, universal basic income, paid leave and the issues raised above. Micro: If drivers qualify we are helping them sign up for SNAP benefits, free or lower cost subsidized health insurance, connecting with open food banks, financial counseling etc.


– RUNNING WATER RESTROOMS: after a years long campaign and years of research we won running water restrooms at the airport ride hail lots for the very first time starting this past fall at EWR, LGA, JFK. These desperately needed handwashing stations could not have come at a more critical time for protecting drivers, riders and the community. We are calling on the City to allow FHV to park…


IDG is a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 200,000 drivers in NY, NJ, and CT