After three driver strikes and a lawsuit, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission on Wednesday approved a raise in rates for tens of thousands of ride-hailing drivers that should begin next week.
Drivers for Uber Technologies Inc.
and Lyft Inc.
had been fighting to increase their pay since last year, when they complained that the ride-hailing companies had enacted fuel surcharges in response to the rising costs of fuel in other places but not New York City. The Taxi and Limousine Commission in November proposed a pay increase for drivers — in addition to scheduled annual increases — but Uber sued to block it and a judge agreed that the commission had not included its calculations to show justification for the increase.
According to calculations included in the commission’s final proposal, the drivers will receive an 8.78% increase from the rates that were in effect from March 2022 through January 2023, starting Monday.
“I’m excited that we have come to a rule that has worked for everyone,” said David Do, commissioner and chair of the commission, during a meeting Wednesday, which was live-streamed.
“We applaud the TLC for heeding the calls of our strike to make the raises a reality,” New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said in a statement Wednesday, though she noted that the raises — which are not retroactive — should have been effective in December. “Today, we celebrate our victory, and, today, we keep fighting for more.”
Representatives for Uber and Lyft expressed support for the outcome.
“The TLC’s proposal includes changes that will ensure fairer competition within our industry,” said CJ Macklin, spokesperson for Lyft. “We are appreciative of them listening to our concerns and look forward to continued engagement on ways we can improve ride-share overall.”
“The roughly 2.25% one-time increase is more reasonable than what was previously proposed,” said Freddi Goldstein, spokesperson for Uber, referring to the percentage increase in pay that the drivers will get from what they are currently receiving. The proposed increase in November would have been higher, Goldstein noted.
On November 11, New York’s Uber and Lyft drivers received a most-welcomed late raise thanks to three strikes set in motion by the New York Drivers Union, as well as a lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The New York Drivers Union instigated the raise with a three-strike campaign that built tension to inspire change. The union held a first strike on August 6, for a corporate payday. During which, the union encouraged getting behind the three ride-hailing apps, Uber, Lyft, and Via, and its drivers to stop working to make the message clearer that they wanted better pay and fairer treatment. On strike two, December 5, the union drove home the message with “fare strike,” when drivers “refused to submit fares until the companies agreed to boost their workers’ pay. This was followed by a third strike on December 10, when drivers held protests in New York City to draw attention to the issue and make their demands heard.
In addition to the strikes, there was a lawsuit filed against Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State back in October. The lawsuit made the case that New York was ignoring the needs of its drivers by not intervening to ensure that they make at least a minimum wage while they are on the clock.
The successful combination of strikes and the lawsuit was followed by Uber and Lyft offering New York drivers a guaranteed $17.22 per hour, plus paid sick leave and disability insurance. This raises the bar nationwide for better pay and company relations, signaling progress for gig economy workers.
New York’s Uber and Lyft drivers can now rest a little easier knowing that their hard work and commitment to improving their working conditions and pay resulted in a win. In the end, the efforts of the union, suit, and collective driver’s strikes, won out and should serve as an example of how individuals can come together to secure rights and build better working conditions.