New York State and city lawmakers are looking to add yet another tax on For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) trips, in order to raise funds for the MTA (as high as $5 per trip). Proponents of the tax are calling it “congestion pricing” or an FHV surcharge, and TNCs are backing the plan. But the Independent Drivers Guild is extremely concerned about the impacts on working drivers and our families.

We’ve seen this before. We know companies like Lyft and Uber will pass the cost of the taxes on to drivers who are already working longer and longer hours just to survive. We know that, just like on interstate trips with the Black Car Sales Tax, they will find a way to underhandedly profit from the additional tax – leaving workers crumbs.

With many full-time drivers earning less than minimum wage after expenses, New York City drivers are desperately struggling to make ends meet. The weight of mounting expenses, years of pay cuts and systemic wage theft from apps like Uber and Lyft, is driving the problem. Adding to a driver’s burden by making rides more expensive, while allowing these companies to pass on the expense is a mistake.

The city’s traffic problems will not be solved by taxing Uber, Lyft and Juno drivers. The proposed tax has nothing to do with congestion – it’s about taking hard-earned money from those who need it most. It’s essential that a law is passed to protect our profession and our income BEFORE adding any NEW taxes. If you agree, stand up for your fellow drivers and sign our petition demanding a pay raise and pay protections at IDG.ms/Progress.

For those who may not be familiar, it is important to remember that Black Car trips in New York City are already subject to the highest taxes in the industry. New York City’s Black Car trips are subject to a nearly 9% sales tax, much higher than the fees charged to city taxis (a 50-cent surcharge) or upstate FHVs (a 4% surcharge). If the majority of those funds have not been designated for the MTA up to this point, working drivers should not be penalized, and the burden should not fall on our shoulders. Our labor has brought in approximately $750 million through the Black Car sales tax in the last three years alone.

We all want less traffic congestion, so we can move New Yorkers more efficiently. However, as the city’s former deputy transportation commissioner Bruce Schaller noted in his recent report – and as many experts have cited – a surcharge on FHVs only would not reduce congestion in any significant way. If the state wants to reduce congestion from FHV trips, it should work to limit the number of workers entering the industry.

What’s more, another tax on trips will make it that much harder to win benefits for drivers. The enormous growth of independent contractors receiving a bulk of our income from technology platforms has soared, while leaving workers without the basic benefits or protections afforded to employees.

The Independent Drivers Guild has led discussions with city and state officials about the creation of a benefits fund, paid for by a surcharge so that drivers can gain access to benefits that would protect public health and make our streets safer – such as paid sick leave, health or vision plans, etc. New York is positioned to lead the country and create a national model for better working conditions for contractors that are more fair and equitable.

There are 100,000 families who are financially dependent on New York City’s for-hire vehicle drivers, and we simply cannot afford to have another expense (congestion pricing) defray from our meager earnings. Let’s work together to make sure New York’s leaders keep the financial impact on drivers and our families in mind when constructing policy around MTA funding.

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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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