Taxi drivers are taking to the streets to demonstrate against “Ubernomics,” a business model predicated on turning full-time driving jobs into part-time gigs, monopolizing service by flooding the streets and overtaking the heavily regulated taxi industry through “disruption,” and ultimately bringing in the driverless car to replace drivers altogether. In cities with legions of Uber cars, drivers report massive loss of income, both for taxi drivers and Uber drivers themselves. Earlier in the summer, Uber Chief Strategist David Plouffe said “the vast majority of Uber drivers have another job and their income from driving Uber is supplemental.” Professional taxi drivers say, what about the full-time jobs that have existed for generations?
“This income is not supposed to be supplemental. It’s the primary income for a quarter-million workers in this country. Uber has set everyone on a vicious race to the bottom where no worker wins,” said Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
Uber and other App companies legislate the business model through state-wide laws that allow them to dispatch “on-demand” directly to non-regulated private motorists with personal cars. As a “Transportation Network Company” (TNC), they win special explicit exemptions from all laws governing taxis and for-hire service, including commercial insurance, commercial registration and inspections, vehicle standards, driver security background checks, tax requirements, and compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.) There are also no protections against price gouging, or requirements for customer service.
Despite Uber and Lyft’s failed attempts over the past several years to pass TNC legislation in NYS, drivers say they fear the outcome of the Governor’s public pledge to support Uber and bring it across the state. “Since Uber doesn’t believe it needs to follow the same rules as taxis, the only other way it would be in upstate is as a TNC,” said Beresford Simmons. “Drivers in Buffalo are going to be swarmed in traffic during all the busy times, like rush hour and weekend nights. And when the work dries up, all those private cars are naturally going to enter the City where the work is. Whether NYC is in the law or not, we’ll be squeezed. And none of us can afford to lose more.”
With no cap on the number of TNC vehicles, cities like San Francisco have as many as 30,000 private cars competing for fares in a city served by 3,000 regulated taxis. Drivers have reported losing as much as 70% of their income, while the city is now plagued with the second worst traffic congestion in the country.
The laws also explicitly exempt drivers from employee classification, pre-empting state laws that otherwise have classified similarly dispatched black car and car service drivers as employees for decades. Cities with strong regulated taxi and for-hire service would stand to lose significant revenue from taxes and fees, but city regulators would be precluded from banning such cars as the state would trump their authority. There are also no limits on the number of vehicles.
Many states have defeated such measures and activated heavy enforcement to stop Uber’s illegal entrants into local markets. Most recently, Philadelphia seized dozens of cars and fined Uber $300,000. Countries across Europe and Asia have banned Uber due to its anti-regulation stance and Uber CEOs in Paris face criminal charges. Taxi and For-Hire-Vehicle Drivers in New York City urge Governor Cuomo to stand up to Uber and say no to TNCs.