Uber has stepped up its pressure on city politicians to vote down legislation that would limit the transportation company’s growth.
The company on Tuesday hosted the first in a “citywide jobs tour” to promote Uber’s role as a job provider for those seeking flexible hours without the requirements of buying a taxi medallion.
The event was held in Queensbridge Park next to the nation’s largest public housing development.
“This is our chance to stand on the side of economic justice,” said State Assemblyman Michael Blake, who emphasized the importance of Uber as a job and service provider for the outer boroughs. “I’m tired of jobs being lost, I’m tired of opportunities being lost.”
The legislation being considered would limit in the number of new drivers hired in the next year, pending environmental studies on congestion. A vote in City Council may come on Thursday, and if passed, would limit the company to 200 new drivers. Uber has claimed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s support for the legislation is merely a kickback for donations from taxi groups.
“I don’t think it’s about progressive politics, I think it’s about contributions to his campaign,” said Josh Mohrer, Uber’s general manager in New York.
But yesterday, at a rally held at City Hall the founder of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai fought these claims, as Capital New York reported.
“We are here to say that this fight, it is not a turf war, it is not about contributions,” she said, “It is about the ability of tens of thousands of New York City drivers to sustain themselves with a living under the impossible levels of congestion and competition.”
Uber’s critics often complain not only about increased congestion and competition for taxi drivers, but that Uber gets away with ranking its drivers as “partners,” independent contractors not qualified for benefits.
Vickraj Ramnauth, 52, an Uber driver for two and a half years, said he loves working for the company. His only complaint was that customers have no way to tip him from the app. Their only option is to give him cash, which they often don’t have.
“They mislead the customer and tell them the tip is included,” said Ramnauth.
The park was filled with other Uber drivers and their families, the bulk of whom were very supportive of the company. A long line of would-be drivers waited to sign up with plates of food.
Caroll Zarza, 25, from Flushing, has been driving for a few weeks. She brought her mom, Zulma Zarza, 52, to sign up. She said Uber offers a unique advantage for women because drivers don’t need to handle money and the app handles customer interactions.
“She doesn’t feel safe driving a cab, especially because she’s a woman,” said Zarza, translating for her mother. But with Uber, her mother hopes to make extra income to supplement her part-time job.
Uber officials encouraged all in attendance to call their city councilmembers and urge them to vote down the legislation, even providing phone numbers to call.