September 16 was a Global Day of Action against Uber. The campaign included more than 200 New York cab drivers who showed up outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office, protesting a pending statewide plan to allow companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to use phone apps that dispatch an unlimited number of drivers directly to customers. Taxi drivers fear that the proposed law will bypass significant consumer protections, disrupt local transport, and destroy public revenues from fees.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) organized the rally, which was supported by New York Communities for Change and the National Writers Union, which was represented by President Larry Goldbetter (above left).
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the NYTWA, called Ubernomics a “vicious race to the bottom that drivers across the globe are facing.” She asserted that the $40 billion corporation is building a monopoly to replace the taxi industry, and ultimately, drivers themselves by ushering in the driverless car.
“Under Ubernomics, our full-time jobs are being turned into part-time gigs,” Desai warned. “Our family-sustaining incomes are recast as supplemental, second-job pay, and our very existence as workers is expendable.”
“We are all contingent workers,” Goldbetter told the responsive crowd. “The need for collective action is more urgent than ever. The billionaires smell blood, and they are coming after all of us.”
In San Francisco, the home of Uber, 3,000 regulated taxis compete against 30,000 private cars, and driver income is down 65 percent. In Boston, 3,000 taxis compete against 10,000 private cars, and driver income is down 22 percent.
In NY, the law would exempt privately owned cars from commercial requirements, including vehicle standards, inspections, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The cars can have private insurance, and drivers are subjected to limited security background checks.
Speakers at the rally pointed out that Uber has already been fully or partly banned in Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, India and South Korea. Last June, following protests by thousands of taxi drivers across the country, France also shut out Uber.
Desai has a plan to attack Uber on its own turf: NYTWA is developing a new app for release in October 2015.