NYC Taxi and Uber/Lyft Drivers Rally for Raise

New York Taxi Workers Alliance says the urgency of its fight was made more clear from surveys by 455 drivers which reveal shocking levels of poverty, as well as the dependency on driver income for thousands of New Yorkers.

By A correspondent
Taxi drivers protesting outside City Hall in New York City onn May 23. (Photo, courtesy NYTWA Twitter feed)
While workers across the country are reeling from record-high inflation, New York City’s yellow cab, Uber and Lyft drivers are facing down inflation from the price of bread and milk to the gasoline they need to go to work every day.

According to New York Taxi Workers Alliance, drivers are looking at paying $5,000 more for fuel by the end of the year compared to pre-March gas prices.

“As the Taxi and Limousine Commission holds public hearings this week on driver expenses and income, drivers will Rally for a Raise outside City Hall, at Broadway and Murray, and testify together.” On Monday, May 23rd, NTWA members who are yellow cab and green cab drivers gathered, and on Tuesday, May 24th NYTWA members who drive for Uber and Lyft will rally during their hearing. A large number of Pakistani Americans are associated with taxi and limousine business in New York City.

NYTWA, a 25,000-member union of yellow cab and Uber and Lyft drivers is calling for the TLC to regulate meter rates and cap expenses so that all drivers can take home $25 per hour after expenses. That translates to a modest increase of up to $2.00 more per trip for riders, but adds up to a decent raise for drivers.

The TLC, which just last week welcomed a new Chairperson, has not raised the yellow and green cab meter rates since 2012 – a decade of crisis poverty and debt for thousands of the city’s cabbies. The TLC-regulated App driver payment rates that Uber and Lyft must pay the drivers per mile and minute are based on 2017 expenses. The union is calling for raises on both rates, along with caps on leasing expenses so the money stays with the drivers, not the companies.

While Uber and Lyft enacted fuel surcharges on their own across the country, they left out NYC drivers. The companies lied, claiming that a 5.3% raise enacted by the TLC in driver payment rates in March was to cover the recent spike in gasoline. In reality, the modest raise was to cover the increase in cost of living from January 2020 to January 2022, it did not account for gasoline costs for professional drivers, and occurred before the recent historic spikes.

The city’s review of a raise is also coming after Uber announced plans with e-hail companies, Arro and Curb, to return to dispatching yellow cabs on its App, but not pay drivers at the metered rates. The union’s demands also include regulation of the emergence of the e-hail market for yellow cabs and of the vehicle leasing market for Uber, Lyft and livery drivers which proliferated over the past 10 years; and annual increases in rates based on inflation so driver income can be stable.

“When the two things you need – food and gasoline – cost more than they have in 40 years and you have to pay for both, how can anyone survive without going into debt, or going hungry? The TLC has a responsibility to respond to the immediate crisis, especially after 10 long years of drought. But the fact is, we’re tired of raises just for survival. We want regulations that respond to the disruptions brought on by the Uber and Lyft business model of part-timizing a full-time profession, and elevate drivers’ incomes to a dignified level their labor commands. Drivers pay for expenses, work without safety, work long hours, have to stay alert and responsive to customers at all times and keep the economic engine running 24×7 in our City. We want $ 25-per-hour take-home. Not a penny less,” said NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai.

NYTWA says the urgency of its fight was made more clear from surveys by 455 drivers which reveal shocking levels of poverty, as well as the dependency on driver income for thousands of New Yorkers. A staggering 314 out of 441 drivers – 71.2% – reported being close to not having enough groceries or not having enough money for groceries over the past 12 months. The cost of food is rising at its fastest pace since 1981. The latest Consumer Price Index report from the federal government indicates, “[t]he costs of shelter, food, airfare and new vehicles were the largest contributors to April inflation. The food index increased 0.9 percent in April compared with March, notching its 17th consecutive monthly increase. The dairy index climbed 2.5 percent, its largest monthly increase since July 2007.” Further, 89% of the drivers (388 out of 435) reported that their driving income is the main income in their family–despite the best efforts of the “gig economy,” driving remains a full-time job/income that thousands of New Yorkers are dependent on. 87% of the drivers work 5 to 7 shifts per week; including 91% of the Uber and Lyft respondents. The need is clear: drivers need a raise, and they need it now.



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