By Jack Barnes
Today, the Independent Drivers Guild is petitioning the Taxi and Limousine Commission to adopt a proposed rule that would require Uber to offer passengers the option to tip their drivers in the app. Currently, all other major ridesharing companies and all New York City taxis offer tipping options in their apps or display screens. TLC data shows that the vast majority of taxi passengers who pay by credit card choose to tip their drivers. Uber’s refusal to allow in-app tipping has caused passenger confusion and resulted in drastic reductions in tipping income, which has long made up a substantial portion of driver earnings.
The Guild, which represents and advocates for New York City’s nearly 50,000 Uber drivers, submitted the proposed rule to the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), the agency responsible for licensing and regulating New York City’s taxis and for-hire vehicles. The TLC is required to respond to rule petitions within sixty dayswith either proposed rule language or a denial of the request. Already, the TLC requires taxi display screens to offer passengers a button to tip 20 percent and the option to manually select any tip amount. However, the agency has yet to hold the burgeoning app-based industry to the same standard.
“Tips are drivers’ bread and butter, and traditionally account for as much as a quarter of their earnings. Uber’s refusal to give passengers a tipping option has effectively slashed driver pay, making it all the more difficult for drivers to support their families in one of the most expensive cities in America,” said Jim Conigliaro, Jr, founder of the Independent Drivers Guild. “Uber has a reputation for skirting rules and industry standards, but depriving drivers of the opportunity to earn tips is bad business. The fact that they are denying drivers the ability to earn tips at the same time as the company has cut pay and nearly tripled their take of driver pay is beyond the pale. It’s time to hold Uber to the same standard as taxis and the rest of the service industry and require a tipping option.”
The Guild will also be organizing a member-led campaign to call the TLC urging adoption of the in-app tipping rule as well as distribute flyers and stickers calling attention to the issue.
Today’s petition to the TLC is an escalation of the tipping campaign that the Guild first launched last summer after tipping was named the top issue of concern in an early survey of its membership. Drivers with the Guild brought the issue to Uber management in June 2016, at the first of their regular “works council” meetings negotiated by the Guild and IAMAW District 15 which gives drivers a direct line of communication to company management.
When the company refused to budge, the Guild launched the campaign including an online petition and social media advertisements as well as the distribution of flyers, bar napkins, and stickers. The campaign has two goals: pressure Uber to add the tipping option and let passengers know tips are permitted and appreciated. Uber’s refusal to allow in-app tipping has caused rampant passenger confusion over whether tipping is permitted (it is) and whether gratuity is already included in the fare (it is not).
The tipping campaign is one part of the Guild’s comprehensive effort to increase drivers’ earnings, reduce expenses and create protections. When app-based ridesharing companies came on the scene, they offered enticing incentives and bonuses to woo drivers away from driving for traditional black car companies or taxi cabs. However, once these app-based companies dominated the market they doubled and now nearly tripled their cut of driver pay.
Since the launch of the Independent Drivers Guild in May, the Guild has won important victories for drivers. New York City’s Uber drivers are the only organized drivers in the world to meet with Uber management regularly to advocate for changes and they have the best job protection of any Uber drivers in the world as well, with the unique appeals process they negotiated to fight unfair deactivations. Drivers won a $1 increase to the minimum rate, the right for drivers of luxury vehicles to opt out of the lower cost UberPOOL and UberX fares, and the creation of a destination filter in the app, which allows drivers to be matched up with passengers heading toward the driver’s destination at the end of a shift (an enhancement that drivers across the country now enjoy). The Guild also negotiated discounts for drivers on insurance and other expenses drivers face, such as legal assistance fighting unfair tickets, mobile phone plans, and tax preparation services.
Most recently, the Guild won a death benefit through the Black Car Fund for the families of drivers killed on the job and successfully called on Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to step down from President Trump’s business advisory council in protest of his muslim immigration and travel ban. Nine in ten New York City drivers are immigrants and many expressed concerns about the ban, so the Guild launched a survey Monday January 30th asking drivers about the ban and if Kalanick should step down. The results were clear with a majority calling for Kalanick to quit the council and 90% of drivers noting that they knew someone affected by the ban. By Thursday night, on the eve of the council’s first meeting with Trump, Kalanick resigned from the group.
Drivers who wish to learn more about the IDG can visit DrivingGuild.org or text DRIVE to 64336 to learn more (msg and data rates may apply).
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