NYC's Pay Raise for Ride-Hail App Drivers is 'Tip of the Iceberg,' Guild Says

December 5, 2018

By Amanda Weston

New York is now the first city in the country to set a minimum pay rate for drivers working for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, following a vote on Tuesday by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. Under the new policy, those drivers will make $17.22 per hour.

But Aziz Bah, steward of the Independent Drivers Guild, told Cheddar Wednesday it's only the beginning.

"I know most other cities would love to have what New York has today, would like to accomplish what we accomplished today," Bah said. "I'm pretty sure this is just the tip of the iceberg and things are going to create a ripple effect because other cities will want to actually be able to make a livable wage as well."

The Taxi and Limousine Commission's analysis claims its action will raise the average pay of more than 77,000 drivers by about $9,600 per year, with "minimal disruption to passengers."

The commission estimated ride-hailing drivers are currently making $11.90 per hour after expenses, below New York's $13 minimum wage.

"Drivers have been fighting forever for a fair wage and just pretty much a livable wage," Bah said. "These are drivers that worked 14 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and could not make the ends meet. That's the reason why under the platform of the Independent Drivers Guild, we took on a fight and finally we succeeded. This is a big day."

But the ride-hailing apps themselves aren't happy about the change.

“TLC’s implementation of the City Council’s legislation to increase driver earnings will lead to higher than necessary fare increases for riders while missing an opportunity to deal with congestion in Manhattan’s central business district," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement.

Lyft took a similar stance.

“Lyft believes all drivers should earn a livable wage and we are committed to helping drivers reach their goals. Unfortunately, the TLC’s proposed pay rules will undermine competition by allowing certain companies to pay drivers lower wages, and disincentive drivers from giving rides to and from areas outside Manhattan. These rules would be a step backward for New Yorkers, and we urge the TLC to reconsider them."

But Bah told Cheddar the companies are getting it wrong.

"I think that's totally inaccurate because these ride-hailing companies will do anything that can prevent them from paying the drivers a livable wage," Bah said. "Because at the end of the day, they pocket a lot of commission. And most rides, these ride-hailing companies end up making more than the driver that's actually doing the actual work."

As to what a fair cut would be, Bah said the driver should pocket most of the money per ride. And while he said $17 still isn't enough, it's a start.

"That at least sets the wages somewhere where drivers can be hopeful, can be able to work less hours, and be able to spend more time with their families," Bah said. "But the fight continues. But we still celebrate this."

The change is set to go into effect at the end of the year.

For full interview click here.