The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (NYTLC) just announced sweeping changes to For-Hire Vehicle rules that will ensure Uber/Lyft drivers are paid fairly.
According to a press release from the NYTLC, the new rules will affect approximately 80,000 drivers using Uber/Lyft in New York City (as well as For-Hire Vehicle apps like Juno and Via), and the average driver can expect to see their annual take-home pay increase by roughly $10,000/year. The rules will affect 96 percent of all rideshare drivers.
“Companies are saying paying drivers fairly will cause longer wait times and higher prices. But I believe all New Yorkers are willing to pay a little more and wait a little longer so the people transporting them are able to provide for themselves and their families,” NYTLC chair Meera Joshi stated.
Fast Company reports that under the new rules, drivers will make a minimum of $17.22/hour, which is based on New York City’s minimum wage of $15/hour, plus $2.22/hour for expenses incurred. For-Hire Vehicles that are wheelchair-accessible will get additional money for putting vehicles on the road and in service. There are also new minimum pay rates for out-of-town trips.
Wages for Uber/Lyft drivers have been steadily declining over the years, with the average pay for a rideshare driver down by approximately 53 percent between 2013 and 2017, according to a September report by JPMorgan Chase. Because drivers are considered independent contractors rather than actual employees of the company, they aren’t protected by minimum wage laws.
In New York, the number of rideshare customers has increased, likely due to the shoddy condition of the New York City subway system resulting from declining investment in subway infrastructure. This leads to rideshare drivers working longer hours in the day, for less money. Uber even admitted last year that it had underpaid drivers in New York for more than two years.
“Access to transportation is a vital part of the New York City economy,” Finance Commissioner and NYTLC board member Jacques Jiha said in a public statement. “Rideshare drivers should be better compensated for the important service they provide. New York is an expensive city, and these rules make it easier for drivers to better provide for themselves and their families.”
The campaign to organize for the new rules was led by groups like the New York Taxi Workers Association and SEIU 32BJ, which previously won a campaign to get New York’s airport workers a $19/hour minimum wage earlier this year. In addition to lauding the NYTLC for the new minimum pay standards, 32BJ president Héctor Figueroa called on Uber and Lyft to share the increased fare prices on customers with drivers.
“This pay policy will put a stop to driver pay cuts, but we also need to ensure that app drivers are not cut out of the fare revenue that Uber takes from passengers. We urge the Taxi and Limousine Commission to fairly implement this pay increase by taking tips into account rather than trusting app dispatch companies like Uber to average drivers’ pay per month,” Figueroa stated.
The new rules will be put in place in mid-January of 2019.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.