NYCC Transportation Committee Public Comment

Testimony of Ryan Price, Executive Director

Independent Drivers Guild

New York City Council Committee on Transportation

June 21, 2017

Good Morning Chairman Rodriguez and Members of the Committee, my name is Ryan Price and I am the Executive Director of the The Independent Drivers Guild. The IDG is a nonprofit affiliate of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) that represents 50,000 working drivers throughout the for-hire vehicle industry. The IAMAW has been the only union to successfully organize black car workers in New York City, and has been doing so for twenty years. The IDG started in May of 2016. We focus on organizing workers of the app-based for-hire vehicle industry to win a more fair for-hire vehicle industry. In the past year, we’ve heard from tens of thousands of workers on how to improve the for-hire vehicle industry, and organize to realize those improvements.

On behalf of our membership, first and foremost, we thank you Mr. Chairman for your leadership and support of this very important issue that will have a significant and meaningful impact on the lives of thousands of drivers and their families. We also want to thank the the Taxi and Limousine Commission for accepting our petition to mandate a tipping option across the for-hire vehicle industry, as well as Council Member Espinal, Chin, Lander, Menchaca, Public Advocate Tish James and Comptroller Scott Stringer and many other city and state officials for supporting our long-run campaign and proposing a local law to cement our proposal to make tipping standard again.

We support Intro 1646 which mandates a gratuity option for black car and luxury limousine services. We stand in strong support of this legislation, which will provide a desperately needed raise to thousands of New York families who are struggling to make ends meet after years of pay cuts. We also urge the adoption of four essential amendments for the economic well-being of our members—91% of whom are US immigrants from more than 150 countries, 56% of whom care for a dependent, and 27% of whom lack and are seeking health insurance—and stress how vital it is that workers and regulators continue work hand-in-hand to protect New Yorkers by implementing pay regulation.

Labor platform companies like Uber, Lyft, Juno, Gett, and Via all know how important it is to have a tipping option, but those companies seem incapable of developing a policy that workers are actually asking for. Those companies know Americans are struggling to pay their debts and often feel fortunate to just have a job—so when companies slash pay, the workers are pressured to both perform more trips per hour and work dangerously long shifts just to feed their families and keep up—and the company profits more than ever.

New York City can be the global leader and be a part of curbing the culture of driver exploitation. A strong tipping regulation is potentially a $300 million dollar issue for New York City for-hire vehicle workers and their families. We urge New York’s City Council Members and the Taxi and Limousine Commission to strengthen the driver protections they have proposed and ensure fair and consistent application of the tipping option for all for hire vehicle drivers through these four actions:

  • Mandate parity with the Taxi industry by requiring the tip options be 20%, 25%, 30%, or other—and offer customers the option to select a preset tip percentage to be automatically applied across all trips on that platform.
  • Bar any additional hurdles to tipping or notification of the tipping option. For example, companies should be prohibited from requiring customers to rate a driver’s service at a certain level before being able to give gratuity.
  • The option to tip must be available for a minimum of twenty-four hours.
  • Gratuity must be classified as completely separate from a worker’s pay. That way companies cannot take a cut of a worker’s gratuity, and gratuity cannot count toward “incentives”—therefore acting as an effective tipped wage. This will also ensure the estimated $300 million in gratuities per year would stay in the hands of New Yorkers rather than being raided by multinational corporations.

We again thank you for your support and request the swift passage of Intro 1646 and thank you for supporting New York City for-hire vehicle workers.

Thank you and I am available for any questions the committee may have

The Independent Drivers Guild is a Machinists Union affiliate representing app-based drivers. We are Uber, Lyft, Via, Juno, Gett workers united for a fair for-hire vehicle industry.