On New York City’s Report Urging Higher Pay for Uber and Lyft Drivers

The following is a statement from Rebecca Smith, Director of the Work Structures program at the National Employment Law Project, on the new report considering New York City’s first-in-the-nation proposal regarding a wage standard for Uber and Lyft drivers:

“Today’s report echoes what driver-members of the Taxi Workers Alliance in New York, as well as drivers across the country, have long said: Companies like Uber and Lyft are making immense profits but paying poverty wages to drivers. Conditions are going from bad to worse. Drivers today earn less than what they did in 2014, and drivers are paying an average of $8.54 an hour just to keep their cars on the road. They work long hours and much of their time is uncompensated: they spend almost half of every hour waiting for fares.

“Thousands of people are trying to feed their families while working for these poverty-wage companies. And these companies are making obscene profits. In New York City, app-based drivers complete more than 17 million trips in the city each month. The industry includes about 80,000 vehicles, dwarfing the city’s 13,587 yellow cabs. As the report finds, Uber alone would be the largest for-profit private employer in New York City – if Uber drivers were classified as employees rather than independent contractors. Uber’s mark-up in New York City is a whopping 600 percent of its operating costs. These companies clearly can afford to pay a living wage, but simply choose not to do so.

“We welcome the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s plan to engage in rulemaking with public input based on the results in its yearlong data analysis. This model represents a first step towards fair pay and equitable conditions for drivers. A few caveats: The model does not take into account the 25 percent or more of drivers who have much higher operating expenses than the average driver and who will not see a minimum wage of $15 an hour, and the authors were not able to fully consider the industry overall – the effect on taxi drivers who are suffering under the brutal ‘race to the bottom’ triggered by Uber and other companies’ socially irresponsible practices.

“We need policymakers to step up and take the lead on creating solutions, enacting a comprehensive solution for all drivers, including those with the highest expenses. We commend the TLC for recognizing the urgency of this moment and the need for novel policy approaches.

“Today’s report is based on data collected directly by the companies the TLC regulates. Not only in New York, but across the country, working families are being left behind by the irresponsible practices of companies like Uber and Lyft. Policymakers everywhere should demand from these companies the data that we need to create a sustainable industry with a level playing field for all drivers, to clear up congestion in our streets, and to integrate transportation network companies into equitable overall transportation plans.”

Earlier this year, NELP released a report detailing how companies like Uber and Lyft have used the hardball tactics of the gun and tobacco industries to buy political influence and preempt or override local policies intended to protect consumers and drivers. View the report here. In 2016, Uber and Lyft deployed 370 active lobbyists around the country – more than Amazon, Microsoft, and Walmart combined. The result is less protections for drivers, consumers, and all of us.


The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.

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