On New York City Passing Landmark Law to Regulate Uber and Lyft

Following is a statement by Rebecca Smith, program director for Work Structures at the National Employment Law Project:

“New Yorkers secured a huge victory today in the fight to reclaim our democracy from the outsized influence of corporations—in this case, the ride-hailing behemoths Uber, Lyft, and other transportation network companies.

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“We applaud the New York City Council for passing a series of bills today that will help improve the lives of traditional taxi and livery drivers as well as app-dispatched drivers who work for companies like Uber and Lyft.

“This first-of-its-kind legislation will establish a minimum pay standard for app-based drivers, and press ‘pause’ on any expansion beyond the 80,000 ride-hail vehicles already clogging New York City’s streets. The flood of vehicles has contributed to poverty-level wages for app-based drivers and plummeting income for traditional taxi drivers, whose plight was put on stark display by six recent driver suicides.

“The glut of Uber and Lyft vehicles has meant that app-based drivers are trolling the streets, waiting for a fare for 25 minutes out of every hour, spending $8.54 an hour just to keep themselves on the road, and earning less than they did in 2014. Meanwhile, New York City’s iconic yellow cab fleet is a mere 14,000 in comparison, with full-time taxi drivers facing financial crisis. In November 2017, when driver Douglas Schifter killed himself in front of City Hall, he said in his suicide note that ‘unlimited cars’ had created ‘slavery’ conditions for taxi drivers.

“Uber pulled out all the stops to defeat the legislation, spending a million dollars on a disinformation campaign aimed at residents of the outer boroughs. As we documented in a recent report, Uber State Interference: How TNCs Buy, Bully, and Bamboozle Their Way to Deregulation, Uber’s rampant spending on lobbying and media campaigns has been key to its success in preempting local regulation in 41 states.

“Fortunately, by an overwhelming margin of 39 to 6, the members of New York’s City Council saw past Uber’s aggressive lobbying and media tactics, and voted in the best interests of the drivers and the broader community of New Yorkers.

“Many congratulations to our partners in this fight—especially the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents both Uber and Lyft drivers and taxi drivers, and which early on saw the need for a unified voice bringing together all for-hire transportation workers. This victory is for Douglas Schifter and all drivers who get New Yorkers from place to place every day.”

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