Uber, Lyft Driver Pay in NYC Could Change Under Guild Proposal

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By Jaclyn Diaz

Drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft could get higher pay in New York City if the latest proposal by the Independent Drivers Guild is approved by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The guild’s March 20 proposal requests pay protection for ride-share drivers. The organization wants driver pay returned to the average rate of compensation when Uber entered the market in 2013, guild President Jim Conigliaro said.

This is the second proposal introduced by the guild on issues related to ride-sharing in the Big Apple, and it won’t be the organization’s last, Conigliaro told Bloomberg Law. The guild seeks to improve the livelihood of ride-share drivers by working with the city government to further regulate the industry.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission, which handles licensing and regulation of the city’s medallion taxicabs and other for-hire vehicles, approved a guild petition in 2017 on in-app tipping for drivers.

“The goal is to create an industry where drivers and companies can exist together where drivers are making a living wage and can take care of their families and companies can make money,” Conigliaro said.

The number of drivers licensed by the taxi commission has grown to more than 180,000, Commissioner Meera Joshi said in a statement. “Our agency is actively looking at how to provide income protection for all drivers and will review this petition in that light,” she said.

The guild doesn’t serve as the official union for the drivers. It is a nonprofit labor organization that has negotiated with ride-share companies on behalf of those workers.

Lyft Says Petition Full of ‘Errors’

Both Lyft and Uber said the companies are implementing tools like in-app tipping and fees for returned lost items so drivers can maximize earnings and improve their experience. Representatives from Juno and Via, other ride-share apps that operate in NYC, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Uber has regular meetings with the guild to “listen to and discuss issues that matter most to them,” a company spokeswoman said in response to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment on the proposal.

The guild’s “petition is built on several fundamental data errors,” a Lyft spokesman said. “We look forward to working with the TLC to ensure a review based on facts and accuracy.”

Conigliaro said guild data indicate that in 2013 Uber drivers were paid $20.25 for a five mile, 30-minute trip. The same trip would earn that driver $14.68 now, he said.

Lyft said the guild’s facts are wrong and that drivers in New York City earn more than $20 per hour.

Pay Proposal for Drivers

Customers who use ride-hailing apps are charged a fare based on how far and how long the trip takes to complete. The guild proposes that pay return to 2013 numbers.

Driver wages were much higher when the ride-hail companies first entered the market, Conigliaro said. Now, some drivers have to work 11-hour days and still struggle to make ends meet, he said.

The commission could approve the petition as is, reject it, or accept the petition with its own changes.

“Based on conversations with the commission, there is an interest in pay protection in some form, but I’m not sure how fast they will respond,” Conigliaro said.

The commission has 60 days to respond to the guild’s petition.

Future Proposals

After the success of the 2017 in-app tipping proposal, the guild continues work on other petitions to increase regulation, Conigliaro said.

Currently, the taxi commission has no limit on the number of licenses for ride-hail drivers. That’s a problem, he said.

The guild has seen approximately 2,000 drivers enter the market in New York City every month. That increases competition for existing drivers and forces them to work even longer hours to get decent pay, he said.

The guild is developing a proposal that would limit the number of licenses available to ride-hail drivers. That issue is above the TLC’s jurisdiction so the guild will introduce it to the New York City Council. The proposal is currently in the research stage.

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