That NYC Uber and Lyft protest missed the point

This event really didn’t make much of a splash in the national news this week, particularly with all of the Lewandowski circus activities going on, but it’s definitely worth bringing up. Yesterday morning during the rush hour, traffic on FDR Drive on the east side of Manhattan ground to a halt for a couple of hours, totally ruining the commute for thousands of Big Apple residents. The jam was caused by a dozen or more Uber and Lyft drivers who said they were protesting pay and working conditions. The activity was apparently the brainchild of the Independent Drivers Guild, a union representing the gig economy drivers. (CNBC)

Uber and Lyft drivers, protesting over pay and working conditions, brought traffic on the FDR Drive to a nearly dead stop at rush hour Tuesday morning.

Video from Chopper 4 showed a caravan of black cars slowly rolling up the northbound FDR, with a massive line of stalled traffic behind them.

Some cars attempted — at time unsuccessfully — to squeeze past the caravan, which appeared to be dozens strong.

First of all, as I’ve said following many other protests of this type around the country, shutting down a major highway during rush hour is no way to get your point across. All you’re doing is angering everyone stuck in traffic and they will be far less likely to support your cause once they find out who created the mess. And most of those people vote. It’s just not a productive tactic.

But beyond that, the drivers need to understand who and what they are protesting. The union is saying this is about pay, but those drivers very recently got a raise, thanks to new laws passed by the city over the objections of Uber and Lyft. In response, just as they promised to do, Uber and Lyft started restricting the number of drivers that could log onto the app based on demand. That means that a lot of the drivers were unable to pick up riders and earn any money.

But that was the only response the two companies had available. They can’t pay the literally tens of thousands of drivers fifteen dollars per hour to sit around waiting for a rider. Any driver not actively transporting a passenger is costing them money. The only reason they’re being locked out of the app is because of what the city government did.

But the real conflict runs on a deeper level than that. The union and the drivers are claiming that they want either the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission or the Mayor to “do something” to change the gig economy policies and help them. Here’s what they don’t seem to understand. The Commissioners, the City Council and the Mayor have no interest in helping you. Quite the opposite, in fact. They passed those laws to try to drive Uber and Lyft out of business in their city. They’re not trying to save your job or improve it. They’re trying to eliminate it.

If you really want to protest someone, protest the Mayor and the City Council. They’ve been out to remove your line of work for years, and now they’re finally having a serious impact on it.

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