Anyone who owns a car and wish to take trips can register with the on demand car hailing companies and start taking trips. But the drivers are not considered as employees and they do not get any kind of benefits or facilities that an employee gets, instead they are considered as independent contractors or partners.
Driver Union for e-hailing drivers
The drivers working under different online transportation companies joined together to sign the union card that can leverage and consider them as employees. Nearly fourteen thousand drivers working under different companies grouped in front of the TLC (Taxi and Limousines Commission) office on Sept 27th, 2016 in the Long Island to schedule an election to form a driver’s union. The school bus driver’s union, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 is making its share of bid to unionize the drivers working for the online ridesharing companies. The commission has no role in the union process, but they focus mainly on the protection of the drivers and their regulatory process and the rulemaking process emphasize on driver safety.
The online transportation networks treat their drivers as independent contractors and not as employees and the National Labor Relations Board recognized that those independent contractors do not receive the same protection as that of the employees and support in the unionization of the drivers. The National Labor Relations Board is a federal agency that recognizes union and arbitrates the labour issues.
Need for union
All the drivers working for the car hailing companies are fighting for the recognition as employees because with the employee rights they become stronger and they get access to many benefits. Ben Dictor is a partner of the Eisner and Associates and is a lawyer, said that the formation of the union is mainly useful for the market standards and advocacy perspective for the independent workers like the ones who work alone and the cab drivers. It is also a way to seek the political power and the economic power to boost the industry to higher levels.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance in late spring filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco based e-hailing company, Uber on behalf of five thousand New York drivers. The company settled the litigation in April with the drivers is Massachusetts and California; the company denied the employee status for the drivers and awarded them with one hundred million dollars. But the Judge overturned the one hundred million dollar stating that the settlement amount is not sufficient and that it only reflects to 0.1% of the value of the case. Similarly, students of the Columbia University are working as adjunct professors and the NLRB decided to unionize those students with employee rights.
There are many cases in many parts of the country similar to this issue, where the independent contractors seek the rights to be considered as employee. The Amalgamated union driver organization is one of the several organizations that are focusing on the driver issue. Earlier in the month of May, the ridesharing giant agreed with the Independent divers Guild is a subsidiary of the International Association of Machinists to discuss with the representatives on behalf of the thirty six thousand drivers working under Uber. According the meeting, the management must meet with the guild on a weekly basis for the next 5 years and also provide the drivers with discounted legal services, supplementary disability insurance, road assistance, life insurance and other resources for the drivers. However, the guild has promised that they will not formally unionize the drivers.
The support system to get justice for the drivers
The signature of the drivers from the ridesharing company has surpassed about thirty percent of the overall workforce, is sufficient to trigger the union election. The drivers must have a meeting with the Amalgamated transit union to decide to schedule to vote. Chris Townsend is the field organizer for the Amalgamated transit union; he said that the Taxi and Limousines Commission has the outright authority to regulate the ridesharing industry. The ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber virtually sign in with unlimited number of drivers each day, but the pay is less, high commission fee and no benefits; these things have to be taken care of by the commission.
There are many other app based companies in the gig economy that consider their workers as independent contractors and sticking them with the price of the trolls, gases, unemployment benefits, health insurance, retirement benefits, taxes and other things. A suit was filed against the state Department of Labor and the Gov. Andrew Cuomo by the Taxi Worker Alliance of New York for ailing to give the unemployment to the drivers from the ridesharing platform Those drivers who were fired were informed that their applications are under the executive review. Similarly, the alliance complained about the ridesharing company for classifying their drivers as contractors to the National Labor Relations Board.
The TLC (Taxi and Limousines Commission)
The TLC of New York is the agency that is responsible for the regulation and license of the New York City’s luxury limousines, the medallion taxi cabs (yellow), paratransit vehicles (ambulates), for- hire vehicles (black cabs and community based liveries) and commuter vans. The commission was founded in 1971 by Mayor John Lindsay. The board of the Taxi and Limousines Commission consist of 9 members, of whom 8 members are unsalaried commissioners, the remaining one person is the Chairperson or the Commissioner is the head of the agency and is the one who presides over the Commission meetings. There are around six hundred employees working under the Taxi and Limousines commission who are assigned to different bureaus and different divisions like the legal, uniformed services, safety and emissions, Public affairs, licenses and policy. The bureau also includes the vision zero squad, a squad that focus on the enforcement of the safety related issues like the use of mobile phones while driving, moving violations (failing to yield to the pedestrians).
The Taxi and Limousines commission has nearly licensed and regulated one hundred and forty six thousand drivers and about fifty thousand vehicles; The licensed drivers under the commission self report one hundred and sixty seven different countries as their place of birth. It also performs the emission inspection and safety of the thirteen thousand five hundred and eighty seven yellow taxi cabs 3 times a year and also the biennial inspection of all the for- hire vehicles that are licensed under the commission.
The need for a union for the drivers working under the online ridesharing companies is not only for the payments and the benefits, but it is also a recognition and respect for the work done by those people. They are also part of the community and they help the people by tripping anywhere and anytime, even they have a family to save and feed. The online car hailing drivers face many issues from the traditional taxi drivers and even from the government and federal government regarding regulatory issues; they need a committee or a union to voice for them; for their rights and their safety.
All the employees classified under various divisions and units receive the benefits and claims that they have to get, but the drivers working under the app based countries receive no benefits, health insurances or safety benefits.