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Morning Spew

Uber and Lyft Screwed Their NY Drivers Out of a Lot of Money and Now Must Finally Pay (Not Enough)

We too are thrilled when let off relatively easily for persistent wage theft, and other links to start your day.

9:45 AM EDT on November 2, 2023

A rally by ride share drivers in Long Island City. (Hell Gate)

For years, drivers for Uber and Lyft have bemoaned a pay structure they see as both unfair and inconsistent, as well as definitely skirting labor laws that would mandate a consistent minimum wage and benefits like paid sick leave. For their part, the companies have been fairly unresponsive when drivers ask some obvious questions like, "Hey, why are you deducting the sales tax from fares before giving me my promised cut of the fare?" or, "Why am I not being paid at all for the time it takes me to go and pick someone up using your service?" or, "Why can't I appeal a decision by Uber to suspend me from the service, thus rendering me effectively jobless?"

On Thursday, Attorney General Tish James announced some answers to those questions, in a $328 million lawsuit settlement with the companies that will make Uber and Lyft pay out past compensation owed to their for-hire rideshare drivers, as well as establish rules that will pay all their drivers in the state a minimum wage and allow them to accrue sick time. The settlement also requires that the companies set up an accessible way for drivers to appeal suspensions, which many drivers have found to be arbitrary and life-upending. 

“For years, Uber and Lyft systematically cheated their drivers out of hundreds of millions of dollars in pay and benefits while they worked long hours in challenging conditions," James said in an emailed press release. "These drivers overwhelmingly come from immigrant communities and rely on these jobs to provide for their families. These settlements will ensure they finally get what they have rightfully earned and are owed under the law."

In addition to extending a $26 wage floor (pegged to inflation) for drivers across the state, drivers will now earn one hour of sick pay for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of six paid sick days a year. 

Most of the $328 million ($290 million from Uber and $38 million from Lyft) will be paid out to address a practice the companies had in place between 2014 and 2017, where they deducted sales tax and other fees from fares before they paid the agreed-upon share of it to drivers, in clear violation of rules set out by the City's Taxi and Limousine Commission. 

But hey, maybe screwing your mostly immigrant drivers is just the cost of start-up life. In a statement to the New York Times, a spokesperson for Lyft called the settlement "a win for drivers," and that they were "proud" of the new changes. The companies did not admit any fault as part of the settlement, because why would they be at fault? Building a ride-hail empire that floods city streets with more cars than ever should be as remunerative as possible—even if that means dipping your hands deep into the pockets of the drivers who can least afford it. Uber and Lyft spent years fighting against a higher minimum wage for drivers in the city, and currently Uber is fighting in court to block a pay raise for their delivery drivers, who have helped the company finally become profitable.

Drivers can expect to begin accruing sick time and see higher wages statewide within the next two months. 

Here are some links that aren't going to plainly screw you over and call it a "win":

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