Uber Drivers: “You Can't Pay Rent With Stars”

09 Mar 2017

Independent Drivers Guild Launches New Social Media Campaign in Tipping Push, Announces Union and City Council Support for Tipping Rule

New York, NY–Just days after Uber found itself embroiled in controversy for its CEO’s dismissive and disrespectful treatment of a driver who confronted him over pay cuts, Uber drivers are launching a new social media campaign to fight for a tipping option in the app. The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), representing nearly 50,000 ride-hail drivers in New York City, unveiled the campaign as part of their push to require a tipping option for all ride-hail apps. The campaign videos, “Star ratings don’t pay the bills,” depict what would happen if other service industry professionals received stars instead of tips. The social media campaign will include digital advertising on social media platforms, search engines and other websites.

The Guild also announced broad support for its proposed rule to require an in-app tipping option in New York City, where taxis are already required to offer a tipping option on electronic payments screens. Supporters of the rule include labor unions, several members of the city council including the chair of the transportation committee, rideshare driver organizations, immigrant rights organizations and other community groups. Read the sign on letter here: http://driversguild.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/TipSignOn.pdf

Supporter list:

Independent Drivers Guild
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO
District 15, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO
New York State AFL-CIO
New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Transport Workers Union, Local 100
International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
Utility Workers Union of America, Local 1-2
National Domestic Workers Alliance

Black Car Assistance Corporation
Pakistan News
SubContinent Peace Foundation
The Rideshare Guy
La cooperativa del taxista de NY
Transportation Alternatives

New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chairperson of the Committee on Transportation
New York City Council Member Corey Johnson
New York City Council Member Karen Koslowitz
New York City Council Member Rory Lancman
New York City Council Member Daneek Miller
New York City Council Member Debi Rose
New York City Council Member Mark Treyger
New York City Council Member Darlene Mealy

“The dismissive attitude toward drivers’ ability to make a living is nothing new. But this industry’s major profiteers can’t get away with ignoring the needs of drivers and their families anymore. Their disrespectful comments only feed our fight,” said IDG founder Jim Conigliaro, Jr. “We are fighting to increase driver earnings and tipping could put hundreds of millions of dollars in drivers pockets each year. Uber’s refusal to give passengers a tipping option has effectively slashed driver pay, making it all the more difficult for drivers and their families to get by in one of the most expensive cities in America.”

“Stars are not enough. Uber can and must do better,” said IDG member Ibraheem Ibraheem who drives for Uber and other apps. “One week of tips could cover meals or a month’s worth of car cleanings and it costs Uber next to nothing. It is a slap in the face to the drivers that the company refuses to make this simple update to the app that would increase our earnings substantially.”

Today’s announcement shows the Guild’s tipping campaign is gaining momentum. The IDG first launched the campaign 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 District 15 which gives drivers a direct line of communication to company management.

When the company refused to budge, the Guild launched the campaign including an online petition and social media advertisements as well as the distribution of flyers, bar napkins, and stickers. The campaign has 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).

In February, the Guild escalated the campaign by proposing a new regulation that would require an in-app tipping option for all app-based for hire vehicles in New York City. City regulators at the Taxi and Limousine Commission must decide on the rule by mid-April.

The tipping campaign is one part of the Guild’s comprehensive effort to increase drivers’ earnings, reduce expenses and create protections. When app-based ridesharing companies came on the scene, they offered enticing incentives and bonuses to woo drivers away from driving for traditional black car companies or taxi cabs. However, once these app-based companies dominated the market they doubled and now nearly tripled their cut of driver pay.

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, which allows drivers to be matched up with passengers heading toward the driver’s destination at the end of a shift (an enhancement that drivers across the country now enjoy). The Guild also negotiated discounts for drivers on insurance and other expenses drivers face, such as legal assistance fighting unfair tickets, mobile phone plans, and tax preparation services.

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. Nine in ten New York City drivers are immigrants and many expressed concerns about the ban, so the Guild launched a survey Monday January 30th asking drivers about the ban and if Kalanick should step down. The results were clear with a majority calling for Kalanick to quit the council and 90% of drivers noting that they knew someone affected by the ban. By Thursday night, on the eve of the council’s first meeting with Trump, Kalanick resigned from the group.

Drivers who wish to learn more about the IDG can visit DrivingGuild.org or text DRIVE to 64336 to learn more (msg and data rates may apply).

The new videos were produced with Brooklyn-based Meerkat Media Collective.

For any media inquiries, please contact Moira Muntz at press@driversguild.org