The Independent Drivers Guild Celebrates Tipping Victory Over Uber

17 Apr 2017

Rule Means Raise of $300 Million for NYC Drivers
NYC Green Lights Drivers’ Proposal to Require Uber Tipping Option

New York, NY –Today, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) sided with drivers in their push to require ride-hail apps to offer an in-app tipping option as a first step to protect working drivers in an industry known for misleading drivers about earnings and deploying invasive and exploitative tactics. The TLC granted the petition from the Independent Drivers Guild to create a rule that would force Uber, the app with the largest market share in the city, to conform to industry standards. The Guild estimates the rule will mean an additional $300 million per year for New York City drivers.

The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) is an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers which represents and advocates for 50,000 ride-hail drivers in New York City. See the IDG tipping fact sheet here:

“Today’s decision is a vitally important step forward for drivers. In-app tipping will mean a raise of hundreds of millions of dollars for New York City drivers each year. Drivers have long been denied access to the kinds of benefits and labor protections many workers take for granted, such as paid sick leave or the minimum wage. As a result, New York City’s professional drivers have traditionally depended on gratuities for a substantial portion of their income. Cuts to driver pay across the ride-hail industry has made tipping income more important than ever,” said IDG founder Jim Conigliaro, Jr. “The exploitation of ride-hail drivers must end and this is an important first step. We thank Chairman Joshi and the commission for holding Uber to the same standard as the rest of the industry on tipping and look forward to working together on further reforms to protect our city’s working drivers. We also thank the many city leaders, labor unions and community organizations that stood with drivers and advocated for this critical measure.”

More than a dozen City Council members joined with city leaders, labor unions and community organizations in backing the Guild’s proposed rule and more than 11,000 supporters signed IDG’s tipping option petition. Guild members called the TLC more than 800 times and sent the TLC nearly 1800 emails advocating for the tipping rule. At a TLC hearing on April 6, 55 members of the Independent Drivers Guild testified and demanded action from the TLC to approve the tipping rule and protect drivers’ wages from the exploitative practices of ride-hail companies.

“Today’s victory is more proof that thousands of drivers coming together with one voice can make big changes,” said Uber driver and IDG member Jose Molina. “Tips will bring immediate relief to families like mine, but it’s not just about drivers. Allowing tipping on the app will make tipping much easier for passengers and it will give drivers more incentive to go above and beyond in providing top notch service.”

“When Uber came to town several years ago making big promises about higher earnings and more freedom, I left my job as a dispatch manager to drive for Uber. They led riders and drivers alike to believe that the fares would cover the gratuities that always made up a big part of driver pay, but that’s not what happened. In the years that followed, pay cuts stacked up and I found myself having to work longer hours away from my family to make the same money I did when I started. Allowing drivers to earn tips is an important step to help drivers increase their earning potential,” said IDG member and Uber driver Luiny Tavares.

Other Guild initiatives have led to changes in the Uber app not just for New York City but beyond, such as the destination filter or “take me home” option which the Guild asked for and Uber implemented in most major markets allowing drivers to pick up fares heading their way at the end of a shift. So other cities have been watching the tipping campaign closely, with CA advocates recently proposing a bill to require a tipping option.

The Guild’s tipping push first launched last summer after tipping was named the top issue of concern in an early survey of its membership. Drivers with the Guild brought the issue to Uber management in June 2016, at the first of their regular “works council” meetings negotiated by the Guild and IAMAW which gives drivers a direct line of communication to company management.

When the company refused to budge, the Guild launched the tipping campaign including an online petition and social media advertisements as well as the distribution of flyers, bar napkins, and stickers that say “tips for service are appreciated”. The campaign has had two goals: pressure Uber to add the tipping option and let passengers know tips are permitted and appreciated. Uber’s refusal to allow in-app tipping has caused rampant passenger confusion over whether tipping is permitted (it is) and whether gratuity is already included in the fare (it is not).

With no movement from Uber, the Guild escalated the campaign in February by proposing the tipping option rule and launching a social media campaign, “Star ratings don’t pay the bills,” which depicts what would happen if other service industry professionals received stars instead of tips. The social media campaign included digital advertising on social media platforms, search engines and other websites.

To be clear, this is not the final solution to enable drivers to make a living wage in New York City.The tipping campaign is one part of the Guild’s comprehensive effort to increase drivers’ earnings, reduce expenses and create protections. The Guild presented the TLC with a comprehensive set of actions that can be taken to protect ride-hail drivers and consumers.

Since the launch of the Independent Drivers Guild in May, the Guild has won important victories for drivers. New York City’s Uber drivers are the only organized drivers in the world to meet with Uber management regularly to advocate for changes and they have the best job protection of any Uber drivers in the world as well, with the unique appeals process they negotiated to fight unfair deactivations. Drivers won a $1 increase to the minimum rate, the right for drivers of luxury vehicles to opt out of the lower cost UberPOOL and UberX fares, and the creation of a destination filter in the app. The Guild also negotiated discounts for drivers on insurance and other expenses drivers face, such as legal assistance fighting unfair tickets. Ongoing, the Guild is exploring options for further benefits as well as pushing to improve restroom access for ride-hail drivers.

Most recently, the Guild won a death benefit through the Black Car Fund for the families of drivers killed on the job and successfully called on Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to step down from President Trump’s business advisory council in protest of his muslim immigration and travel ban.

Drivers can support the Independent Drivers Guild in our work to win a more fair for-hire vehicle industry by joining as a full member.

For any media inquiries, please contact Moira Muntz at