Independent Drivers Guild Celebrates New York City’s Commitment to Put Forward Livable Wage Rules This Summer

22 May 2018

City Officials Respond to Pay Rule Petition From Drivers for Apps like Uber, Lyft, Juno

New York, NY — In response to a formal rulemaking petition from the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) stated it plans to put forward rules on industry-wide for-hire vehicle driver income and pay transparency later this summer. The Commission responded to groundbreaking new pay rules proposed by the IDG, a Machinists Union affiliate which represents and advocates for more than 60,000 app-based drivers in the city, stating that the Commission “is in the midst of analyzing various methodologies and will include the one you proposed in this process.” The city is required to respond to rule petitions within sixty days, either agreeing to initiate rulemaking by a certain date or denying the request. In this case, the city responded that it plans to initiate rulemaking in approximately two months.

“New York City could be the first in the nation to set a livable wage rule that applies to drivers for apps like Uber and Lyft. More than 60,000 New York City families depend on the earnings of app-based drivers, but are struggling under the weight of tens of thousands of dollars in annual expenses as apps take larger and larger cuts. Thousands of drivers with the Guild have been waging a campaign for a livable, minimum pay rate for many months and we are pleased that the TLC plans to act this summer,” said Jim Conigliaro, Jr., founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, which has provided the TLC with information on driver pay and expenses over the course of the last year, including IDG survey data, driver interviews, and input on and participation in TLC surveys.

More than 16,000 drivers signed on to the IDG’s petition, which also has support from labor and community leaders, including the International Association of Machinists, the New York City Central Labor Council, The Black Institute and the New York Immigration Coalition. IDG members have sent nearly 4,000 emails to the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission urging adoption of the pay protections and run digital ads urging a raise for drivers and recently the New York Daily News and the New York Times editorial boards editorialized in favor of such pay protections. The IDG proposed rules also include a desperately needed raise to the city’s app-based drivers who shoulder tens of thousands of dollars in expenses each year.

“I just filed my taxes and the enormous expenses and commissions brought my total earnings down to $24,000. I’m lucky if i take home minimum wage. We are struggling to get by while the apps continue a race to the bottom, slashing pay and hiking fees. It’s time for the city to stand up for the more than sixty thousand working families like mine who depend on driving for apps for a living,” said Independent Drivers Guild member Tina Raveneau, who drives for Uber and Lyft. “I support my son without any coparenting, and I am crushed monthly by high insurance rates, high company commissions, gas, vehicle maintenance and a weekly rental payment of $425. It’s getting harder and harder to make enough money to sustain a living.”

The IDG’s proposed rules would also protect riders by prohibiting apps from charging riders more than 20 percent over what the driver is paid. It is unclear if the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission intends to include rider app fees as part of its forthcoming rulemaking, though the commission already regulates rider fares and fees in the taxi sector. Currently, apps can charge passengers more than double what a worker is paid, and the IDG’s report has examples of just that. The IDG’s proposed rules would discourage price gouging and ensure drivers get to keep 80 percent of their earnings, which would return commissions to the rates riders and drivers agreed to before Uber and Lyft changed the fine print to allow for unlimited commissions.

“All working people deserve a livable wage. App-based workers are a large and growing class of Americans being denied this basic right. We are proud to stand in support of our affiliated Independent Drivers Guild, which is fighting to change that. These are landmark rules that would require ride-hail apps like Uber and Lyft to adhere to a minimum, livable pay rate for the very first time. It is a momentous decision that will advance the fight for a ‘sharing economy’ that actually shares,” said Machinists Union International President Robert Martinez Jr.

“The New York City Central Labor Council joins the Machinists Union and the Independent Drivers Guild in demanding an end to the minimum wage loopholes that force drivers to work longer and longer hours and still leave them unable to pay for housing and care for their families,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the NYC CLC, AFL-CIO. “All workers have the right to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. We support these efforts to secure a livable minimum pay rate for app-based drivers, so that these companies will no longer be able to make enormous profits while getting away with exploiting working people in our city.”

“Immigrant for-hire vehicle drivers – 90% of all such drivers – fuel New York’s five boroughs and our economy. New York City should enact a livable wage for drivers to give 60,000 families the key to unlocking greater access and opportunity,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“Whether you drive a yellow, green, black, or app-based car, you should be on an equal and level pay rate. App-based drivers should not be paid less than other drivers for the same work. All of our city’s drivers should be paid fairly and that starts with equal pay and approving the Independent Drivers Guild’s petition to enact a livable minimum wage for drivers and their families. The TLC, City Council and Mayor need to treat all drivers fairly and ensure pay equity across the entire industry,” said Bertha Lewis, President and Founder of The Black Institute.

Last year, IDG members petitioned for and won a New York City law and a TLC rule which forced Uber and Via to add a tipping option to their apps. In that petition, the IDG noted that further protections were needed to ensure drivers could maintain a dignified living. The Commission responded in agreement, stating “we agree with your position that rules governing tipping are not a substitute for a regulatory scheme that ensures that Drivers earn a livable wage.” Guild members and the TLC have had ongoing discussions on the need for pay protection rules since shortly after the IDG’s launch in 2016 and continuing with the issuance of the IDG’s detailed proposal in November 2017.

A 2017 Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) survey of New York City Drivers found that:
  • 73% of workers who had been in the industry for at least a year reported their financial well being was worse now than had been previously.
  • 73% of Drivers worked more than 10 hours on their most recent shift, with Drivers reporting a median shift of 11 hours and a mean shift of 11.5 hours.
  • 85% of Drivers work at least 30 hours per week and nearly two thirds drive at least 45 hours per week.
  • 56% reported being paid less than $150 before business expenses on their most recent shift.
  • Workers who lease or rent their vehicle report mean annual expenses of $35,464, and a median of $31,200.
  • Workers who own their vehicle or have a loan had a mean annual cost of $30,056, and a median of $21,424.
  • 89% reported that being a For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) worker was their main source of income.
  • 57% identified their household income as less than $50,000/year. 22% of respondents reported household earnings of less than $30,000 per year.
  • 56% indicated they care for a dependent under the age of 18.