Drivers, sign up to get involved by completing the survey: bit.ly/driversunionsurvey

When unregulated Uber services launched in 2013 it was heralded as an innovative solution to many cities’ transportation problems. Nowhere was this felt more deeply than in the large city with the highest rates of deep poverty, Philadelphia, where concerns over lack of safety or worker protections and increased privatization of essential services were ignored in the interest of cheap transportation in underserved neighborhoods. But Pennsylvania regulators and legislators may finally be open to accountability for allowing a Bay Area tech start-up to become so embedded in our state’s transportation system. With virtually no requirement for transparency (see: PA Title 57A18) and a promise of increased driver exploitation from Uber, it has become more difficult to ignore thousands of constituents across the state who are stuck with predatory leases and decreased wages.

 

To their credit, some legislators have recently responded to drivers’ call for action made through the Philadelphia Drivers Union, a growing organization of Transportation Network Company (TNC) drivers. State Senators Boscola and Williams are convening a driver-led policy panel on June 6. Questions loom however about who will foot the bill for the safety and infrastructure travesty that Uber has caused in the region. All current proposals seem to place responsibility onto hard working drivers through congestion fees, ticketing, and increased officer presence. With an estimated 20-40,000 TNC drivers in SE Pennsylvania alone, representing nearly every demographic and industry, our elected officials and regulators cannot hide behind a lack of access to data, as if the drivers who are the data aren’t right in front of them, on the streets every day, holding in one hand all the answers and in the other their ballots.

The Philadelphia Drivers Union (PDU) and the Philadelphia Limousine Association (PLA) work to ensure our legislators and regulators never forget that for-hire drivers make the city work, and know how the city works, better than any San Francisco tech company ever could. The driver members of PDU and PLA are a community in crisis, many living one missed day of work away from vehicle repossession or missed medications. As the legislation that regulates the industry in PA is renewed, driver wages and safety must be made a top priority across party lines.

 

PDU and PLA’s demands for legislators and regulators:

 

  • 80/20 Fare Split of gross passenger receipts

  • Minimum Living Wage of $20/hr after expenses

Passengers deserve to know which portion of their fare goes to their driver and how the algorithms calculate their fare. What passengers pay has increased over time while the portion they pay to drivers has decreased. Despite Uber’s promise that the extra revenue would be directed to drivers, subsequent rate and promotion cuts suggest otherwise. In addition, too many TNC vehicles have impacted traffic congestion. It’s been demonstrated that setting a minimum living wage for drivers will force Uber and Lyft to self-police the number of drivers they will send into traffic. #sharethefare

“Uber plays games with us, always dangling the carrot with terrible programs like UberPro, finding new ways to get the driver to do what they want. But really the answer is simple. All we want is fair pay.”

Ali Razak, driver-member, Philadelphia Limousine Association

 

(photo, let to right: Ali Razak; Yaseen Aslam, United Private Hire Drivers-UK, Ammar Ali Farooqi, PLA member)

  • Deactivation Protection through local oversight that includes drivers elected to the hearing board.

Currently, Uber and Lyft can deactivate a driver for anything at any time, a fact regularly leveraged by riders looking to get a free trip for making complaints. While at-will employment is nothing new, drivers receive no unemployment, FLSA, or NLRA protections or rights to self-advocacy. For many drivers, even those who are part-time, missed Uber income could mean the difference between making your car lease payment or still owing while having your source of income repossessed. #transparencynow

“Our expenses go up; passengers’ prices go up. But drivers’ share goes down. If we only exist to make Uber stockholders rich, then maybe they should invest in the people who really drive the profits. Instead I just keep my fingers crossed I won’t get deactivated over unfounded complaints and struggle to make ends meet while I finish school.” ~Keesha Moore, PDU driver-member

  • Uber and Lyft must invest in public education campaigns for riders before instituting any new background check policies.

Background checks are already unfairly leveraged against drivers; stories of drivers with great ratings suddenly being deactivated for decades old minor offenses are rampant in driver forums. Many TNC drivers are the safest on the road because they are experts of traffic patterns and public behavior. They also care about their passengers’ safety and a job well done. Yet when tragedies happen to passengers, even when a legitimate TNC driver was nowhere on scene, the first push is often for even stricter background check and deactivation policies without first addressing public lack of knowledge about how to use the app, verify drivers, and choose a safe pick up spot. In addition, drivers who refuse to transport children without car seats or unaccompanied minors often face reprisals from passengers that can result in deactivation. #checktheplates

“When you sign up to drive for Uber, they make it sound so safe and easy. Driving is dangerous work! Uber executives are making all the money while we take all the risk without a living wage. We deserve hazard pay. As a mother, I care about my passengers; I try to go above and beyond especially when a passenger is intoxicated and may need more help. I am just trying to hang in there, make ends meet, and hang on to our farm. Why isn’t anyone talking about driver safety?” ~Martha DeFilippo, Philadelphia Drivers Union driver-member

  • No Changes to TOS without bargaining with drivers and their representatives in good faith.

While Uber and Lyft continue to claim that drivers are independent contractors, it leaves drivers to wonder why they are never offered the chance to negotiate over their contracts and are forced to accept rate and terms of work changes as though they are just non-unionized employees but without any of the rights or protections. #driversunite

 

As the whole world watches Uber’s IPO, the driver-members of PDU and PLA are instead watching their legislators. Whether it is Uber or Lyft or the next disruptor that comes along, Pennsylvanians’ safety relies on a for-hire driver workforce that is well-rested, alert, and healthy. Instead TNC drivers are living under constant coercion, fear of deactivation, often with no health care or safety net, and always pushing for one more trip to try to get by.

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Philadelphia Drivers Union and Philadelphia Limousine Association

are both driver-led, driver-run alliances with no affiliation to any 501(c)5

labor organizations. @PHLdriversunion on FB and Twitter

Media inquiries and other questions can be referred to admin@phillydrivers.com