More than two dozen Rochester cab drivers were joined by their union allies on Monday, calling on city lawmakers to reject Uber and Lyft’s bid to operate in the region unregulated.
The companies’ business model has been supported by state officials and several New York mayors who anticipate job growth.
Malkie Demissie has been driving cabs on and off for 25 years and is now part-owner of Park Avenue Taxi Services. He says the group welcomes the competition.
“We’re not against an app, as Uber offers. The only thing we are asking is to have a playing level field,” says Demissie.
At a rally outside City Hall, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance demanded the ridesharing services be subject to the same legal requirements as taxis, such as its drivers holding commercial licenses, having consistent, valid insurance, and undergoing background checks.
“We care for our community safety,” says Demissie.
Bhairavi Desai is the executive director of the union who traveled from downstate to protest.
“This is fundamentally about a business model that is destroying a full time profession. This is a job killer,” says Desai.
Protesters hope their message resonates with Mayor Lovely Warren, who has been on record supporting Uber and Lyft coming to Rochester. She made her position clear again Monday when asked about the rally.
“We have to be open as a community to have these individuals follow the rules that taxi drivers have to follow but also in opening up the opportunity for them to come here and have people that are currently not taxi drivers being able to make a living as well.”
Warren says when it comes to things like safety regulations for the ride services, the state should take the lead.
Northeast district Councilman Mike Patterson, however, stood in solidarity with the drivers at the rally.
“Taxi drivers are regulated, inspected and held to a standard. This rideshare economy that they’re proposing has only the standards that the company chooses to impose,” says Patterson.
“The city should be awake and understand. If we don’t have full-time jobs to support our families, most of these people will be on welfare,” adds Demissie.
Alix Anfang, an Uber spokesperson, says in a statement that “Uber is creating new opportunities for people to earn a better living on their own time and their own terms.”
“While the taxi industry continues to spread lies about Uber in order to protect their bottom line, we are confident that state leaders will hear the voices of the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are demanding regulated ride-sharing in their cities and towns.”