By Brendan Sexton
As we enter the second month of a new decade, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the year that recently passed and thank all of the drivers who joined us, and helped our voices be heard. There is power in numbers! Only in coming together have we been able to win historic improvements for professional drivers, and only in coming together will we be able to continue to win the changes we need in years ahead.
In 2019 we won our years-long campaign to get running water restroom facilities for FHV drivers at the NYC area airports ride-hail lots. It took years of planning, research and conference calls with the Port Authority. Now for the very first time, we have running water restroom facilities at JFK, LGA and Newark airports for FHV drivers, as well as a suitable space for prayer or meditation.
In 2019, the nation’s first minimum pay protection for app-based drivers went into effect in New York City. The apps tried to fight it, but Lyft lost their lawsuit and were forced to increase pay to $27.86 per hour. The city expects driver pay will increase by nearly $10,000 per year, which will help end the race to the bottom of driver pay across the for-hire vehicle industry.
In 2019 we also held our largest protests yet, with thousands of drivers coming together to shutdown rush hour traffic in NYC in the largest gig worker protest to date in the U.S. Our protest caravan caught the attention of city leaders and national media as we slowly rolled over the Brooklyn Bridge, up to Gracie Mansion and over to Uber headquarters, and we will carry that energy forward as we continue the fight for our drivers’ bill of rights and the right to collectively bargain.
In the final weeks of 2019, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law to protect benefits for thousands of black car and app-based drivers and to authorize the expansion of driver benefits through New York’s first-in-the-nation portable benefits fund, known as the Black Car Fund. It’s great news for New York’s hard-working professional drivers. TheIndependent Drivers Guildworked hard to win new benefits for drivers, including free glasses, counseling, and telemedicine, so we are glad to see these benefits protected.
New York has been the nation’s trailblazer in providing crucial benefits and protections for professional drivers, and this new law allows our state to continue to lead the nation and expand on that success. We thank New York’s leaders, especially Governor Cuomo and the sponsors of the new law, State Senator Diane Savino (Staten Island-Brooklyn) and Assembly member Robert J. Rodriguez (Manhattan) for standing up for drivers and the benefits we need in this industry.
For the state’s next legislative session, which began last month, the Independent Drivers Guild isurging New York Stateto establish aright to bargainfor ride-hail drivers. Only under a collective bargaining agreement can we force the apps to negotiate any changes with drivers and finally stop them from making major changes without our input. In 2019, the Trump administration ruled that under federal labor laws, Uber drivers are contractors and not eligible to unionize. However,legal expertssay that this ruling has given states an opening to create a right to collective and sectoral bargaining at the state level for those workers barred from unionizing at the national level. The Guild has led the charge in New York State calling for the state to pass a right to bargain in 2020 as a next step to build on the New York’s pro-worker leadership.
At the city level, we are continuing our fight for our Drivers’ Bill of Rights, which includes crucial rights around our ability to make a fair living, including blocking the apps from locking drivers out and requiring destination filters that allow drivers to control their schedule, ending unfair deactivations and requiring due process. We hope you will join us on these fights in 2020.