In September, Uber introduced a policy to limit when drivers can work from its app. “Starting Tuesday, Sept. 17, rider demand will determine how many drivers can be online at the same time,” Uber announced. “This means you may not always be able to go online if there aren’t enough riders requesting trips in your area.”
The memo explains that the change is being made partly in reaction to new rules implemented by the Taxi and Limousine Commission – and partly because of a change Lyft made several months ago in response to the city’s new minimum-wage rule. Starting at the end of June, Lyft barred drivers from going on its app if they were cruising in areas where few people were demanding rides. They could, however, drive to a busy area and try to get on the app once they arrived.
Angry drivers are complaining that the new policy is costing them flexibility in their schedule and cutting into their earnings. Uber said drivers can reserve time slots in advance and be allowed to get on the app during those time periods.
Drivers of wheelchair-accessible vehicles are exempt, along with Uber Pro “diamond” drivers.
“For months we warned that if the city failed to take enforcement action against Lyft for cheating on the pay rules, that the other apps would follow suit,” said Brendan Sexton, executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG). “Already thousands of drivers are struggling to pay their bills and working longer and longer hours because Lyft is blocking them from the app.”
“Until we took needed action last year, it has been Uber and Lyft’s business model to oversaturate the market while promising drivers that they could succeed despite these companies’ stacking the deck against them,” acting TLC Commissioner Bill Heinzen said. “The TLC and City Council put in place smart policies to address the problems these companies created, and they are finally being forced to experiment with ways to run their businesses in an environment of accountability. These companies must be reminded that drivers are crucial to their continued success.”
The IDG is calling for a Drivers Bill of Rights, which includes the following:
- The right to fair and minimum compensation (without any loopholes that apps can exploit): Enforce pay rules so drivers get the raise they were promised. Cap company commissions to stop the practice of overcharging riders and underpaying drivers. Require “deadhead” pay for all classes of vehicles. Enact higher minimum rates for classes of vehicles with higher expenses. Require apps to reinstate the destination filters and stop other practices designed to get around fair pay rules.
- The right to due process and job security: Prevent Apps from deactivating drivers without a stated cause, require apps to have a due process structure which includes a fair hearing with union/guild representation.
- The right to equal protection and enforcement of the laws: This includes a driver cap that provides power to the drivers to control their own destinies, with active enforcement of existing laws and TLC regulations, and new laws and regs that promote fairness and parity (must have rooftop ads, predatory leasing regulations).
- The Right to a secure and safe work environment: Rear facing cameras paid for by the apps, active and aggressive NYPD/TLC investigations into assaults on drivers and cooperation with victims’ families. Require apps to offer one touch or voice activated 911 which sends GPS location to 911 dispatchers. Adequate parking spaces for the city’s 80,000 FHV drivers to legally make brief stops and access running water restroom facilities. Require apps to charge a rider fee for safety violations to be paid in full to drivers to incentivize them to cancel unsafe trips (minors, no child safety seat, too many riders for vehicle), encourage safe ridership, and compensate drivers for their time.
- The Right to pursue reasonable opportunities: Adopt policies that promote driver ownership over leasing, limit new TLC driver licenses rather than vehicle licenses. Allow all TLC drivers the same opportunity to increase their earnings without increasing congestion through rooftop advertising.