We have good news and bad news this month. We’ll start with the bad. In December, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) quietly enacted new regulations that shift the financial burden of making the city more accessible onto the working drivers who are already struggling to get by. Unlike the taxi accessibility program, these rules provide no funding to support existing drivers that would like to transition to accessible vehicles. After years of pay cuts and improper financial schemes from ride-hail apps, drivers can’t afford to lose work or shoulder the costs of new vehicle investments.

New York City should and can incentivize drivers to progress toward an accessible New York, but instead of incentivizing drivers with a voluntary fund and a regulated pay raise as the Independent Drivers Guild proposed, the City is choosing to make the lives of struggling families even harder. This rule threatens the safety of drivers, riders and all New Yorkers, while pushing thousands of city families further into poverty.

The final rules require all FHV bases to dispatch 25% of their trips in wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs), beginning with 5% in the first year of implementation, scaling up incrementally over the course of five years. The final draft of the rule delayed implementation until July 2018 and reduced the first year’s quota to 5%, but it’s still a devastating blow to the drivers. Additionally, the TLC approved an industry pilot program that would allow bases to be exempt from the quota system, as long as they dispatch accessible vehicles in a timely way upon request, and meet some other dispatch requirements. Even with these changes, the rule will divert sorely needed work from existing drivers to those fleet owners who can afford to invest in new accessible vehicles on short notice. Already, drivers are working long hours to try to make ends meet, with most working 11 hours per day six days a week. These rules will only push drivers to work longer.

In better news, New York is one of the few states where health insurance open enrollment is open until January 31. This is the only time of the year you can sign up for or change your insurance, if you get it through Obamacare. There are lots of options for drivers, and many will qualify for free or very-low-cost care for themselves and their children. The IDG is helping drivers find the best options for them at the Falchi Building Greenlight hub every Thursday in January, from noon to 3pm. The service is FREE, and the Guild has enlisted a translator service fluent in 141 different languages. Drivers can also call 844-788-5581 or go to idgbenefits.healthsherpa.com to explore their options.

This brings us to even better news… More than 10,000 drivers have signed our petition calling on the TLC to regulate a raise for FHV drivers, along with other pay protections. Together, we can win fair pay, but we need all of your support. Please sign and share the petition at IDG.MS/progress, and join us. Working together we can make important changes to this industry in 2018.

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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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