When Doug Schifter took his own life on February 5th, it only confirmed the sad truth that everyone in the FHV industry already knew: FHV drivers are struggling. Schifter’s death is hardly the only tragic consequence of the industry’s greed – two other workers took their own lives, including Danilo Corporan Castillo, along with the drivers that have lost their lives throughout 2017 due to their working conditions.

Schifter was a long-time driver, and over the decades he’d seen wages decline sharply, and was working 60-100 hours per week to just get by. Elected officials and companies may claim that Doug was mentally ill or depressed to try to deflect responsibility for his decision to end his life, but it’s hard to not be depressed when you’re working such long hours, often sitting in gridlock traffic. He believed that those at the top would spare no moral consideration when it came to making their millions.

When Uber and Lyft came along, they found a way to take this attitude to the next level. They attracted new workers by promising big money, enough that prospective drivers were willing to take out loans to buy new, expensive vehicles. But as pay has declined, after ballooning expenses, drivers are making below minimum wage.

The result of this exploitation is many drivers working 12-hours shifts, seven days a week, and having to make impossible financial decisions, such as choosing between healthcare and food. Schifter’s parting wish was that FHV drivers would finally unite as a single voice and challenge the industry, and the puppets responsible for regulating it.

We are working with the Black Car Fund to provide mental health services, including a program to assist in dealing with stress, as well as an emergency hotline to speak with someone; but we are also addressing the root cause of many drivers’ depression.

Already, 13,000 drivers have declared their support to demand a 37% raise, a 25% limit to the fee Uber can charge, and deadhead pay for an empty vehicle. IDG members are also working to limit the number of drivers entering the industry, and make it harder for companies to fire workers without reason so they’ll have to actually train their drivers.

Schifter’s death has also turned the media spotlight on the workers, and we have the public’s support. In the coming months, we will win pay protection in Doug’s honor.

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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