Ridshare/Uber/Lyft (295664)
Credit: WallpaperFlare photo

It’s over…for the time being.

Bloomberg reported this week that a bill worked on by the state government with rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft was dead after a brouhaha over its language was leaked to the public.

New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s officials celebrated on Twitter and elsewhere.

NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said that app-based rideshare companies picked the wrong state to fight with.

“Uber thought that their old playbook would work in New York State in 2021. But the narrative has changed,” said Desai. “People see through their company union and their boss lies. Labor and community groups came together like never before and sent Uber and Lyft crawling away from this legislative session with their tails between their legs.”

The bill would allegedly give workers the chance to join a union without being an official employee of the company. State Sen. Diane Savino, who’s still active with her local labor union Social Service Employees Union, Local 371, wanted to push it to Albany before the session ended this week.

But some officials weren’t having it.

At a rally on Monday, New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos said that the Senate Labor Committee “is not for sale. Not to Uber. No to Lyft. Not to any company that’s going to push an agenda and create second-class workers in New York State.

“We will stop any bill introduced that rolls back workers’ rights…,” Ramos said.

Last month, the AmNews wrote about the House voting in favor of the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in March. The act included forbidding employer interference and influence in union elections, barring employers from using the immigration status of workers against them, and allowing unions to override any state’s laws that let workers opt out of the union but still receive benefits.

Unions and activists labeled the move in Albany subterfuge for anti-union behavior.

Academia and clergy members came out against the legislation. In a recent open letter addressed to New York State’s government, labor scholars warned of voting in favor of this kind of legislation.

The group, which included CUNY Law School Professor Chaumtoli Huq, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies Associate Professor Kafui Attoh and CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies Associate Professor Sofya Aptekar, argued that the bill would be a loss for union rights and not a gain as it’s being promoted as securing collective bargaining rights for app-based drivers and delivery workers.

“Under the provisions of the draft bill, a union can become the exclusive bargaining representative based on a demonstration of support from only 10% of the workers,” read the letter. 
“The remaining 90% of the workforce are denied the opportunity to select a union of their choice for purposes of collective bargaining. Moreover, the companies will fund the union through a 10 cent per ride surcharge, a model that undermines its independence and accountability to its members.”

Labor activists are looking to avoid situations like what’s happening in Tamaulipas, Mexico where for two years, workers at Tridonex, an auto parts-plant, have been harassed and fired for attempting to organize an independent Mexican union of their choice in order to rid themselves of an allegedly corrupt “protection” union picked by the company. The AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, the Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Trabajadores de Industrias y de Servicios Movimiento 20/32, and Public Citizen filed a complaint—the first one ever—under the Rapid Response Mechanism of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Desai knows that. She said they’ll be ready for that round as well.

“Of course, the companies and their shills will be back at it next session with new billion dollar tricks up their sleeves to try to roll back the rights app drivers have won,” said Desai. “But make no mistake: Unless the companies recognize they can’t roll back rights or deny drivers the economic floor granted to all other workers, there is no conversation to be had in any room with these unscrupulous bosses, just much more organizing to be done on the streets.”