The NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (“TLC”) claims to be trying to fight the poverty status of for-hire vehicle operators, but all they seem to be doing these days is hurting drivers. In August 2019, despite opposition from the NYC City Council and drivers themselves, the TLC voted to approve a permanent cap on the number of new FHV licenses. On the one hand, some say that capping the number of FHV licenses is a good thing because it will prevent oversaturation of the market. Others, including myself, believe that more government regulation can only hurt drivers. While the TLC believed the vehicle cap was necessary, the NYC City Council did not necessarily agree. This leads to the question of why is the NYC City Council sitting idly by while watching the TLC run over drivers and their interests? After all, NYC City Council can enact legislation to override the rules of the TLC. On the other hand, why are the Mayor and his puppet appointed regulators at the TLC taking action in the FHV industry without at least consulting with the NYC City Council? It is as if the two branches of government have no means to work out issues together. This is why drivers must take action, individually and collectively.
While there are many advocacy groups out there and each plays a role in helping to represent the interests of drivers and other industry stakeholders, it is essential for each and every drivers’ voice to be heard. This means showing up and speaking at TLC hearings, keeping abreast of issues that the FHV industry faces and also by contacting and your local City Councilmember. It is very easy to do. All you have to do is click on this link https://council.nyc.gov/districts/and enter your home address. It will bring up your local City Council member and enable you to click another button to email them your thoughts and opinions. The City Council is YOUR elected leaders. They take their cues from those who elect them. If you email your elected City Councilmember, your email will be read, and your voice and opinion will not fall on deaf ears. If you get enough drivers to do this and to do it often, then the issues that affect you the most will be brought to the forefront. This is how our system of government works. Don’t wait for someone else to speak up for you. Contact your elected leader and tell them of your plight, your experience in the FHV industry and make sure to clearly tell them what you would like them to do. In other words, hold your elected leaders accountable. If you want something in the FHV industry to change, you have to help bring about that change. Accordingly, the accountability starts with you, the drivers. You are the ones who are transporting passengers every day. You are the ones who make this city vibrant. You are the ones who need to be heard.
There is a very complicated debate going on about how best to check the exploitation of drivers. The real problem, however, is that the City Government has no clear vision for what to do with Uber and Lyft. The ride-hail companies have a clear strategy: a business model that is built on exploiting drivers and taking advantage of the NYC political dysfunction long enough to build a monopoly. It’s not clear what the elected leaders of New York have as a strategy beyond addressing problems as they emerge. While the congestion fee increases prices to the consumer and helps raise funds for the city’s ailing transit system, they do nothing to address the fundamental problems that plague drivers. It is time for you, the driver, to speak up and remind the elected leaders of the city government that you are one of many people that make the City move, you are part of an industry that the public needs, you are in dire straits and are having a hard time making ends meet. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone is entitled to them. Don’t wait for others to speak up for you. It is time for you to speak up and let your opinions be heard on the industry issues that mean the most to you and on the issues that affect you the most.
By: Steven J. Shanker, Esq.