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App-Based Workers Band Together To Demand Better Working Conditions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Tens of thousands of app-based workers are banding together to fight for better working conditions from companies like Uber and Lyft.

They held a rally Tuesday in Lower Manhattan.

"We move this city, right? And we deserve respect," said Naomi Ogutu, president of the NYC Rideshare Club.

For seven years, Ogutu has been an app-based driver. She works six days a week, 10 hours a day.

"We work so hard and yet we are not even able to make ends meet," she told CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis.

The NYC Rideshare Club is one of nine organizations that banded together to form a new coalition called Justice for App Workers. The others are the United Delivery Workers Association, International Alliance of Delivery Workers, Independent Drivers Guild, Long Island Uber & Lyft Network, Black Car Mafia, UzBer, Utany and NYC Drivers Unite.

Dozens of these workers gathered in Foley Square to announce the new alliance and its six demands:

  • A living wage
  • A safe work environment
  • An end to unfair deactivation
  • Access to health and mental health care
  • Access to bathrooms
  • The right to form a union.

"Gas goes up, tolls go up, everything goes up, but the drivers pay," one speaker said.

Just last week, the city's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection began licensing third-party food delivery apps as part of sweeping legislation enforcing new labor standards.

"The food delivery apps have to tell them how much did each customer tip on each delivery. It's gotta tell them the full amount of their pay and tips for the prior day, and also give them improved bathroom access," said Peter Hatch, commissioner of NYC Consumer and Worker Protection.

Come April, additional protections will kick in, but this is specifically for food delivery workers.

"Come January of 2023 the city will set brand new pay standards for all delivery workers who are delivering for these third-party food app companies," Hatch said. "We're raising the floor of protections for these workers and setting what we hope is a national standard that other municipalities will follow."

The DCWP is conducting a minimum wage study and working with stakeholders to determine the new minimum pay rate, which will not include tips.

Ride share drivers want to be part of the equation.

"What we want is for protection for all of the app workers," app-based driver Michele Dottin said.

CBS2 reached out to app-based companies, like Lyft, which says it's committed to continuing to work with all stakeholders to strengthen app-based work.

A representative with Justice for App Workers says the next step is rolling out strategies, whether it's to lawmakers or the app companies, to win these demands.

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission released a statement:

"We have tremendous respect for all the TLC-Licensed Drivers, many of who have been working on the front lines of this pandemic for two years, and we are completely committed to helping them stay safe and provide for their families. We are constantly working collaboratively with Licensees to improve their working conditions, and we are always open to considering new ways to support them."

TLC licensed drivers on average earned over 25% more than their minimum pay standard in 2021.

They offer a resource center to drivers with links to health and mental health services and a directory of publicly available bathrooms in the city.

The workers say they're launching this fight in New York but will seek to win these rights for app-based workers around the country.

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