On March 30, more than 300 members of the Independent Drivers Guild marched on City Hall to protest City Council bill Intro 838. The app-based drivers caravanned from Brooklyn to City Hall in a funeral procession in hopes of burying the bill Intro 838, and picketed outside City Hall chanting the message: “Kill the Bill.”

The bill, sponsored by For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) committee Chairman Ruben Diaz Sr., singles out app-based FHV drivers for yet another tax and takes away their right to work with multiple companies. The IDG held a press conference on the steps of City Hall directly prior to the City Council’s hearing on the bill at 9:30am. The Guild also published a strongly worded op-ed on the previous week and launched a digital ad campaign that is running on Facebook and on the sites of major media outlets, like the New York Times, New York Daily News, and New York Post.

The Guild’s aggressive response to the bill and large presence did not go unnoticed by city officials, within hours of the protests Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced its opposition to the proposal and the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commissioner also voiced opposition to the bill’s key provisions.

Intro 838 creates a new tax-to-work scheme that would cost working families $130 million per year – a sum struggling drivers cannot afford on top of existing fees and expenses. The bill would also prohibit drivers from driving for more than one company or app, a move that would create congestion and delays for riders as well as longer shifts and more unpaid down time for drivers. With such a forced choice, drivers would flock to the app with the largest market share – so the bill would also create an effective monopoly for Uber.

“Lawmakers are waging a war on professional drivers, but we are not going to take it anymore. The endless taxes must stop,” said Guild member Aziz Bah, who has been driving for apps (including Uber) for four years to support his family.

“Like thousands of immigrants in this city, I drive to support my family, including my wife and my six children. But it has become harder and harder to make ends meet. Instead of helping, politicians add more taxes we cannot afford and are trying to block us from working for more than one company,” said Pedro Acosta, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who has been driving professionally for 20 years and driving for Uber for 5 years.

“The Diaz bill’s one app rule would force us all to be a slave to one master,” said IDG member Michele Dottin. “Forbidding us from working for multiple apps will mean even longer days as we face more unpaid down time between fares. We’re already averaging over 11.5 hours per shift. This bill will have us sleeping in our cars. Our families won’t even recognize us.”

“This $2,000 fee is nothing more than a $130 million annual pay-to-work tax on working poor, immigrant families – without any justification and without regard to its impact on individuals, families or consumers. The bill’s one-boss rule further poses a huge threat to jobs and economic security. Ride-hail apps are famous for slashing pay with no notice and firing hundreds of workers every month. Preventing drivers from working for more than one company means that when a driver is fired or mistreated, they will have no option to provide for their families,” said IDG founder Jim Conigliaro, Jr. “ALL DRIVERS across this industry – Livery, Medallion, Black Car and App-Based – are hurting. Instead of disingenuously pitting one set of the industry’s drivers against another – which is all this bill is doing – we should be working together on fair proposals that not only seek parity but that help all drivers, all immigrants, all working poor.”

The Guild’s prepared testimony from IDG founder Jim Conigliaro, Jr. is here: http://idg.ms/Intro838Jim.

In March, the IDG formally petitioned New York City to enact a livable minimum wage for app-based for-hire vehicle drivers, which would increase pay rates by 37%, and to prohibit price gouging in the industry, by capping rider app fees at 20%. More than 16,000 drivers signed the petition in support of the proposal. The city is required to decide on the proposed rule by May 21st.

Article by Ryan Price

Ryan Price is Executive Director of the Independent Drivers Guild, an affiliate of the International Association of Machinists, which represents and advocates for more than 60,000 app-based drivers in New York City. We’re Uber, Lyft, Juno, Via workers united for a fair industry.

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