Local taxi drivers gather in response to ride-hailing bill

Feb 17, 2017
Originally published on February 18, 2017 6:04 am

Taxi drivers from across Rochester gathered at city hall Friday afternoon in response to the possibility of Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services coming to New York State.

Protestors say the apps would destroy full time professional driving jobs for the 300 taxi drivers already working in Rochester.

Ismael Medina is one of those drivers. He’s been driving in Rochester for 4 years and says our city doesn’t use cabs enough to be able to support everyone who would drive if Uber came in.

"Any other huge city where the population is there, they can always hail. Here it’s not like that, here we struggle, so it’s kind of hard on us as it is now."

Medina says if Uber does make its way to Rochester, their drivers should have to pay insurance and go through background checks and fingerprints in order to work as well.

Shirley Sobczak was at the rally with local labor union Workers United. She said they are not against ride-hailing services and the people they employ, but disagree with their business model and the influx of drivers that could force current full time drivers into poverty.

"Initially what will happen is the market will be saturated, everybody is going to want to be Uber drivers. What happens with our drivers is that they lose business."

Zubin Soleimany is a staff attorney for the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. He said the current bill presented to the state does not allow for local control of its services or labor protections for its drivers.

Soleimany said Uber could offer New York the services it uses in some bigger cities like Chicago and Boston where the app partners with existing taxi drivers so you can use it to also get regular taxis and pay for services. An Uber spokeswoman says she  is not aware of any current partnership like that.

Uber also released a statement claiming that the taxi industry is not sticking to the facts and the company says that various studies show that ride hailing services like Uber complement existing public transportation. The company says in states where Uber has its largest presence, employment in taxi jobs has actually increased.