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Ride-share drivers rally at state Capitol calling for better pay

LOB Workers
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Alex Johnson, an organizer with Connecticut Drivers United and a driver for several app services, described her work schedule as 9 to12 hours Monday through Thursday, and on weekends "until the college kids go home."

Connecticut-based ride-share drivers took to the state Capitol in Hartford Thursday to protest low pay and bans on picking up passengers at New York City airports. They said the bans make it harder to earn a living, and they want the state to step in.

Alex Johnson, a member of Connecticut Drivers United (CDU), an advocacy organization, is one of the many drivers who said they cannot live off their earnings.

“This is $5 and some change for three deliveries, three restaurants, three houses; that’s supposed to take 45 minutes, but I promise you with all the wait time, it will take an hour,” Johnson said. "But our minimum wage is $14.”

Johnson, 29, stood with other members of the group in Hartford and braved the cold weather to support a proposed state Senate bill that in concept would give drivers minimum pay per trip, make ride-share companies pay for fees such as tolls and provide receipts to drivers and passengers.

Getting a base pay would help workers like Johnson.

“We understand as independent workers, we’re not held to minimum wage standards,” Johnson said. “They think we can’t go any lower, but watch they will, if we do not stand up for pay standards.”

A minimum pay per ride is different from minimum wage, according to Soledad Slowing-Romero, a Yale Law School student working with CDU.

Minimum pay means a driver would get a baseline rate per ride. Minimum wage would apply to workers, but ride-share drivers are classified as independent contractors. As a result, according to a release by CDU, some drivers have worked as much as 60 hours a week but earned only $600 during that time period, which is less than minimum wage.

The bill would also mandate state officials to come up with an agreement with other states such as New York that would grant Connecticut drivers permission to pick up passengers at New York City airports.

LOB Workers
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Jose Factor, an Uber driver since 2019, emphasized the power of ratings over his work. He has the option to pass over fares that seem low, but doing so lowers his overall rating, decreasing the number and quality of jobs available to him. He said if he passes over three fares in succession, he will be locked out of further work for a period of time, essentially ending his workday.

Drivers in Connecticut can drop off passengers at New York City airports, but they cannot pick up passengers there. Only those who have a New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) License can pick up fares at New York City airports. But New York-based drivers can drop off and pick up fares in Connecticut.

Deborah Wright, the political director for UAW Region 9A, said this results in Connecticut drivers losing out on what could have been their money.

“In many ways, it’s lost profits for them,” Wright said.

Drivers, CDU members said, routinely travel into New York to drop off passengers, but the drivers have to pay tolls out of pocket. The price to enter the Queens borough of New York City, where LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports are located, is $10.17 full price and $6.55 with E-ZPass for a one-way trip.

The bill has two state senators backing it, Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, and Martin Looney, D-New Haven. But if passed, the bill would only get the CDU most of what members are asking. It would mandate only that the state negotiate with other states to allow them access to fares in places such as New York. But a separate issue, according to Slowing-Romero, is the CDU has yet to figure out how to get support from the New York City TLC, which oversees taxi and rideshare drivers in the city.

“That’s a question we’re still considering,” Slowing-Romero said. “We’re still early in the process.

A date to vote on the bill has not been set, according to Slowing-Romero. Uber did not respond to a request for comment, but Lyft did.

The bill, according to Lyft spokesperson CJ Macklin, would raise prices.

“The changes proposed in this bill are so dramatic that it would jeopardize the very affordability of the service,” Macklin said. “This would disproportionately hit our disadvantaged communities the hardest at a time when they are already dealing with record inflation and ultimately mean [that] drivers would take home less than they were before.”

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