Uber, Lyft drivers push for pay raise in New York City

Uber, Lyft drivers push for pay raise in New York City
© Greg Nash

Drivers for Lyft and Uber packed into a New York City public hearing this week to call for a proposal that would establish a minimum pay rate of $15 per hour for tens of thousands of drivers using the ride-hailing services.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission hearing on Wednesday focused on ways to address low pay for rideshare drivers, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet, advocates say.

“For two years, we’ve fought for fair pay rules for New York City drivers,” said Ryan Price, Executive Director of the Independent Drivers Guild, a driver advocacy group.

“We are pleased that New York is listening to drivers who have long suffered with earnings that fall below minimum wage, but it’s critical that the city get this right. While the city’s proposal has many strong points, the current version underestimates drivers’ costs.”

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New York City is one of the biggest markets for ride-hailing apps, while policy changes there have the potential to influence policies that other cities across the country may adopt.

For example, Uber previously did not run background checks in every city and aggressively fought back against proposals compelling it to do so in places like Austin, Texas. The company has for years, however, run background checks on its drivers in New York City and over time has expanded this policy across the country.

Representatives from the ride-hailing companies support the push to raise driver incomes, according to The Wall Street Journal, but say they’re concerned that the specific measures drivers and advocates are proposing could hurt riders and the companies themselves.

Those calling for establishing a $15 minimum pay rate have also pushed for other benefits, such as annual cost of living compensation increases.

In August, New York City approved a measure to cap the number of drivers in the city. Uber and Lyft had sought to flood the market with drivers to reduce wait times, which advocates acknowledge may be be good for riders but can also lower pay for some drivers.

The push for a minimum pay rate comes after a recent study concluded that half of Uber drivers in the U.S. make under $10 an hour after expenses including the cost of gas, maintenance and car depreciation with increased mileage are factored in.

Other studies have estimated even lower hourly figures for Uber drivers. One in March conducted by MIT researchers found that Uber drivers make as little as $3.37 an hour with expenses factored in.