Ride-share companies Juno and Lyft each filed suit against the city on Wednesday to stop new rules that will force the apps to pay their drivers a minimum wage, court papers show.
Juno, using the name Omaha LLC and Vulcan Cars LLC, filed the suit in Manhattan Supreme Court. It claims that the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s wage scheme, which calls for paying drivers a certain rate per mile and ride, would squash competition and give Uber even more of an advantage than the juggernaut already has on the New York City market.
“Although the TLC’s professed goal of ensuring that FHV drivers are paid fairly is well-intentioned in theory — and, indeed, the very goal upon which Juno has modeled its business — the mechanism by which the TLC has committed to do so is inherently flawed and fundamentally unfair,” reads the suit.
Juno sent a message to its drivers on Wednesday morning alerting them to the impending suit.
“Today, Juno has filed a court motion to revisit and place a hold on new regulations introducing a minimum per-trip payment for FHV drivers,” the message sent to its drivers reads. “Because the new regulations were passed without proper evaluation, they will have a significant negative impact on drivers and riders in the ride-hail industry.”
The Taxi and Limousine Commission voted in December to create an hourly minimum wage for all ride-share-app drivers in the city.
The new rule, slated to kick in on Feb. 1, means that companies such as Uber, Lyft and Juno will have to pay their drivers a minimum wage for the first time — $17.27, or more than $2 more per hour than the city’s current minimum for large employers. That will be the minimum after the companies take out their fees and minus the drivers’ costs for such things as gas and tolls.
The ride-share companies cautioned at the time that the rule would mean higher costs for customers.
Lyft filed its own suit over the issue.
“Our lawsuit does not target the law passed by City Council, but instead addresses the specific way the TLC plans to implement the rules, which would advantage Uber in New York City at the expense of drivers and smaller players such as Lyft,” said a company spokeswoman. “It’s no secret that Uber has tried to put us out of business in the past. They’ve failed repeatedly, and the TLC should not assist them in their efforts.”
Uber is not a party to either suit. Uber officials didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the suits were “unconscionable.”
“The overwhelming majority of these companies’ drivers earn less than minimum wage,” he tweeted. “We won’t stand for it in New York City, and we’ll fight every step of the way to get workers the pay they deserve.”
Drivers say they are disgusted by the lawsuits.
“It’s despicable. They know that we’ve been fighting for this raise for years,” said Cliff St. Clair, a black car driver who uses the Uber, Lyft, and Juno apps. “It’s really about principle, usually any job you work, you get a raise, but in this job, you only get pay cuts. Now we’re finally getting a raise and they want to take it away.”
Advocates say the companies’ impending lawsuits are another kick in the face to struggling drivers.
“This is an indefensible attack on workers by the billion-dollar corporations that profit from their labor,” said Jim Conigliaro, Jr. founder of the Independent Drivers Guild. “Lyft and the gang should be ashamed that while their executives and investors are millionaires, their drivers, who do all the work, take home less than minimum wage and are even taking their own lives out of desperation.”
TLC and city law officials didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
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