Livery and Car Service in New York City

Time for the Public to see Uber for What they Really Are.....and to go elsewhere

Uber’s global pattern of driver mistreatment, corporate bullying and legal transgressions should be tolerated no more.  For years, Uber managed to conceal its bad behavior with expensive P.R. campaigns and by claiming they are a technology company and not a transportation provider. Their games may have worked for a while, but their grand plan is quickly unraveling.

Uber is convenient and fast in New York City. The combination of cashless transactions and location technology make for a great service. But no amount of convenience can cover up the toxic culture that has taken hold at Uber. This hold true now not only in the treatment of its huge driver workforce, but at the company’s headquarters as well. Uber’s CEO has finally been forced to resign, but this is simply not enough.

We all know by now that Uber’s wrongdoing does not end at the door of its corporate headquarters. Just as evil is Uber’s model of “employment”. In my opinion, under New York law, Uber is an employer, but offers no employee benefits to its drivers and does not pay the taxing and regulatory costs associated with employing persons. In the vast majority of cases, Uber drivers are offered low pay, no sick pay, no vacations, no 401K. In return, they are promised “flexibility”, or the freedom to work whatever hours suit them. In practice, many Uber drivers are working long, long shifts for extremely poor pay in order to try to make ends meet. On the other hand, Uber continues to operate outside of the law with impunity.

Politicians are yet to condemn Uber. Perhaps their political contributions are just too large to refuse. I am at the point where I refuse to believe politicians will intervene and Uber is surely not going to change its business model on its own volition. But not using the app will surely send them a clear message. The consuming public needs to use its power as customers to force Uber to change their behavior. The workforce of drivers need to stand up to Uber and say “no more”, by disaffiliating with them and refusing to accept their dispatches.

 While Uber is convenient and fast in New York City due to their combination of cashless transactions and location technology, there are plenty of other car services in New York City that do the same exact thing. The only difference is that Uber operates outside of the law, while the car services that provide the same type of service in New York City have been in business for decades and know who to operate a transportation business. The consuming public and the drivers affiliated with Uber should use their collective power and go elsewhere. Uber is not going to change on its own, but you do have the power to “vote” by not using their service. Uber is no longer the sexy newcomer with a cool service. It is a lawless entity that uses drivers like slaves and laughs at the consuming public along the way. Why should anyone put up with this type of service. The time has come for the public to consider that Uber did force many of the incumbents in the industry in New York City to revolutionize and create their own technology to meet the demands of the public. It is now time to go back to these companies and use their service. You deserve better

Uber- the User of the Human Race

When I said a few years ago (3 to be more exact) that there would be something in the near future called the driverless vehicle, people looked at me as if I was crazy. I then reminded them of a time in history, not too long ago, when there was no cable TV and the thought of paying to watch TV was laughable. Also, there was a time when the idea of a cordless telephone, much less a pocket sized computer, would have seemed like a crazy idea. But any fan of technology will always remember Moore's Law. Gordon Moore was a founder of Intel Corp and he extrapolated that the computing would dramatically increase in power, and decrease in relative cost, at an exponential pace. Moore’s observation transformed computing from a rare and expensive venture into a pervasive and affordable necessity. All of the modern computing technology we know and enjoy sprang from the foundation laid by Moore’s Law. From the Internet itself, to social media and modern data analytics, all these innovations stem directly from Moore and his findings. So with technology moving and improving at an exponential pace every other year, why would it be so far fetched to have a driverless car. Now, we all know it is not so far fetched.

Also, when Uber came around and blindsided everyone, many sat around thinking that Uber had a great idea and would be a great addition to our transportation needs. I told people "you don't get it". Uber is not just out to conquer the for-hire transportation market. They are out to revolutionize the world. Now keep in mind that I did not say they are going to revolutionize the world in a good way. Their innovation is amazing. But you have to look long term, just as Uber is and has been doing since day #1.

First and foremost is that Uber drivers, all of which thought Uber was a great way to make extra money or a great alternative to providing traditional taxi or car and limousine service. They all flocked to Uber and some still do. Unfortunately, they only look at what is in front of them. New articles are slowly popping up when an Uber driver aptly explains that they now understand that Uber is literally using its drivers....and I don't mean using as a means to make money. I mean using as a placeholder until the new technology comes out (self-driving vehicles) which will ultimately displace all the Uber driver who thought they found gold in Uber....Yes, it was gold, but fools gold.

Little by little, Uber drivers are realizing that by working with Uber, they are continuing to contribute to their own demise. They all should either start looking for another profession or go back to the car services and taxi companies they were affiliated with before Uber hit the market. It is not too late to go back and prevent Uber from destroying the world as we know it. Uber is an evil empire and is not out to dave the world, but is out to dominate the world in so many ways. Combine the inventions of the vehicle (internal combustion engine and assembly line) with computers and the light bulb and you won't even come close to the revolution that Uber is trying to create.

The problem is not so much that Uber is the evil empire, unlike Thomas Edison, who was truly a benevolent inventor, but that I do not believe the world is prepared to deal with all the changes to life as we know it, the global economy and human interactions. These are just a few things. But don't take my word for it.....Do you own research and think about it for just little bit and you may see that Uber is much more than it appears and all of what is seen is not if what you see is not so good then what will happen next.

Remember, there are a number of extremely smart people who have investment mule-millions and billions of dollars into a company that has yet to turn a profit. Is it because all these people are dumb? Is the valuation of over $60,000,000,000,00 unrealistic? The people behind Uber, who have invested mega amount of money, all know something that we don't. They all know that Uber may very well be the next Apple, the most valuable company in the world. Steve Jobs was an innovator with no comparison and Apple did wonders to change the world...but Uber is a different story. Again, think about it, do you own research and come to your own conclusions.

Now that we are at the end of my ramblings, back to my main point. Uber drivers should leave Uber and stop contributing to their own demise.

Uber Drivers in New York City Protest Fare Cuts

Personally, I am not a fan of unions in the for-hire vehicle industry, but as far as I am concerned, let the Uber drivers protest and strike till they are blue in the face. Uber portrays themselves as the Salvation Army that out to help the working class people and create jobs. They do noting of the kind. All they are doing is taking full time jobs away from traditional limo drivers as well as taxi drivers and making it into a part time industry for all. Uber loves the PR they get for allegedly helping the senior citizens of the world find work after retirement by just using their cars for some extra cash. The answer to what they are doing will not stare anyone in the face, but think about it for a while and speak to some people who works in the industry and you will find out that Uber is the anti-christ. They would likely rip your heart out with a spoon for a few extra pennies per ride.......and they actually do with their surge pricing. Its amazing how people don't understand why their trip from Wall Street to Water Street (a few blocks away) cost approx $500.00. How can someone agree to pay for a service in advance without knowing how much it will cost at the end and without knowing what Uber's surge pricing is. Do people often go into a jewelry store and take a gold necklace to the counter and say "Ill take it" without knowing how much it is and whether the jeweler is going to charge you double or triple the amount simply because, at that particular moment, supply is low and demand has high. But this is just financial rape. Go on the news and read the sickening stories about the violence and other horror stories that passengers of the Uber experience have had to endure. If you did your homework, perhaps you would think twice before using Uber as opposed to some other well established and respectable car service. 

A Distinction Without A Difference? Uber Is Just A Car Service By Some Other Name

You have probably heard of Uber, the app that lets you pre-arrange transportation from your smartphone. You may also have heard of its competitors Lyft and Sidecar.  Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have described their services as "ride-sharing." They claim they are not a taxi company, or even a car service. Instead, they claim to provide "marketplaces" where drivers can offer their services and users can get a ride. Lyft even goes so far as to describe their users, on both ends, as a "community." It's "your friend with a car," according to the website - not a driver you are hiring.

 There is an obvious tension in New York City, and around the country, between our traditional idea of a car service and the model that Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar provide. This is at the heart of the debate over government oversight and fairness to traditional car services, who are heavily regulated in New York City. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) was the first to categorize Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar as an entirely new category of transportation services: transportation network companies, or TNCs.

 The issue of what exactly a transportation network company is has plagued Uber and its competitors across over the country and around the world. So far, some city governments have embraced Uber and Lyft like they are the best thing since sliced bread, while other officials have been unimpressed by the companies' insistence that they are not providing transportation, and therefore get to skirt around regulations that are in place for the safety of the riding public.

 Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar would rather have you think of them as technology company. As Uber wrote in a legal filing with the CPUC: 

Uber operates no vehicles, and does not hold itself out or advertise itself as a transportation service provider. In fact and law, Uber does not provide transportation services of any kind and does not own, lease or charter any vehicles for the transportation of passengers. On the contrary, Uber is a technology company that licenses the Uber App to transportation service providers. The transportation service providers pay a fee to Uber to use its software technology; the passenger of the transportation service provider pays the transportation service provider for transportation services received.

 Current car service owners in New York City, who have been in the industry for dozens of years have retorted that Uber’s claim to be a technology company is a farce. This is so because Uber sets the rates for both the passengers and the drivers. They collect the money and pay the driver. They hire the drivers. They blackball undesirable passengers. They tell their drivers where the best places to pick up are and, if the drivers don't pick up a high enough percentage of the fares, Uber fires them. But Uber isn't in the transportation business. Right!

 Some believe that government agencies and regulators who agree with Uber’s take that they are a technology company are likely to be in the pockets of politicians who make the laws and government regulators who have resisted the calls of the traditional car services to subject Uber to the same regulations as any other car service.

 While Uber disclaims that it is a “transportation company,” Uber has previously referred to itself as an “On-Demand Car Service,” and goes by the tagline “Everyone’s Private Driver.” Indeed, in commenting on Uber’s planned expansion into overseas markets, its CEO wrote on Uber’s official blog: “We are ‘Everyone’s Private Driver.’ We are Uber and we’re rolling out a transportation system in a city near you.” Other Uber documents state that “Uber provides the best transportation service in San Francisco . . . .” Moreover, Uber does not sell its software in the manner of a typical distributor. Rather, Uber is deeply involved in marketing its transportation services, qualifying and selecting drivers, regulating and monitoring their performance, disciplining (or terminating) those who fail to meet standards, and setting prices.

The central premise of this argument is Uber’s contention that it is not a “transportation company,” but instead is a pure “technology company” that merely generates “leads” for its transportation providers through its software. Using this semantic framing, Uber argues that its customers buy dispatches that may or may not result in actual rides. In fact, Uber notes that its terms of service with riders specifically state that Uber is under no obligation to actually provide riders with rides at all. Thus, Uber passes itself off as merely a technological intermediary between potential riders and potential drivers. This argument is fatally flawed in numerous respects.

First, Uber’s self-definition as a mere “technology company” focuses exclusively on the mechanics of its platform (i.e., the use of internet enabled smartphones and software applications) rather than on the substance of what Uber actually does (i.e., enable customers to book and receive rides). This is an unduly narrow frame. Uber engineered a software method to connect drivers with passengers, but this is merely one instrumentality used in the context of its larger business. Uber does not simply sell software; it sells rides.

A United States District Judge in the Northern District of California recently said in a court decision that”

Uber is no more a “technology company” than a Yellow Cab is a “technology company” because it uses CB radios to dispatch taxi cabs, John Deere is a “technology company” because it uses computers and robots to manufacture lawn mowers, or Domino Sugar is a “technology company” because it uses modern irrigation techniques to grow its sugar cane. Indeed, very few (if any) firms are not technology companies if one focuses solely on how they create or distribute their products. If, however, the focus is on the substance of what the firm actually does (e.g., sells cab rides, lawn mowers, or sugar), it is clear that Uber is most certainly  a transportation company, albeit a technologically sophisticated one.”

TNC’s have been operating in many states by thumbing its nose in the air and laughing at government regulators. These TNC’s are taking advantage of loopholes in local laws to sidestep regulations that protect the public, drivers and others.  Although they purport to provide “ridesharing” services or be the provider of a “marketplace”, the business model of TNC’s is in direct violation of any traditional understanding of ridesharing and the means by which transportation is provided and regulated, especially in the City of New York. 

 In New York City, some people still use a telephone to call a car service for pre-arranged transportation, while others use smartphone app created by the TNC. Some car services in New York City actually have their own smartphone application, just like the TNCs, that allows the customer to pre-arrange transportation. But in New York City, the traditional car service that has its own smartphone application is subjected to a whole set of arcane rules and regulations, while the TNC’s are not. This is truly a distinction without a difference.

 The laws that apply to car services and their drivers require measures to safeguard the safety of the public who uses such services. Our elected officials must provide a public policy rationale that justifies having two sets of standards. One for car services and one for for TNCs. Politicians like to support TNC’s because the reference to innovation is sexy and these TNC’s are heavily funded and are able to pay for access to elected officials who make the laws. They also have access to high powered and costly lawyers who can go into court to defend their claims of being the creator of a “marketplace”, rather than what they actually are, which is just another provider of transportation, albeit a technologically savvy one. A passenger’s safety in one vehicle should not be any less valuable based on arbitrary differences.

 At the end of the day, the fundamental acts of either a TNC or a car service are essentially the same – a passenger entering a vehicle, either pre-arranged or hailed by a smartphone app, and then being transported from point A to point B.  There are no other differences between traditional car service and the new TNCs. The only difference is the manner in which transportation is arranged. Either the TNC’s must be subjected to the same regulation as the other car services in New York City or the traditional car services must be freed of the vice grip that the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission has placed on them over the years and continues to do so despite their insistence that TNC’s should be treated differently.         To do otherwise would not only be unfair and irrational, but would jeopardize the safety of the riding public. 

Uber and Lyft in Danger of being found to have Misclassified their Drivers

March 11 was a tough day for ride-sharing start-ups Uber and Lyft as federal court judges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued separate decisions in class action lawsuits brought by drivers from both companies. Those drivers allege that Uber and Lyft misclassified them as independent contractors (ICs) instead of employees — thereby depriving the drivers of many employee benefits. Both Uber and Lyft had filed motions with the court seeking summary judgment on the grounds that they had properly classified the drivers as ICs. The courts in both cases denied the motions and ruled that juries would have to decide whether the drivers are employees or ICs. O’Connor v. Uber Technologies, Inc., No. 3:13-cv-03826-EMC (N.D. Cal. Mar. 11, 2015); Cotter v. Lyft, Inc., No. 3:13-cv-04065-VC (N.D. Cal. Mar. 11, 2015).

These cases will likely have far-reaching implications for Uber, Lyft and other companies in the “on demand” economy. Companies that use a 1099 business model or that have failed to properly structure, document and implement their IC relationships in a manner that complies with applicable laws should take affirmative steps to avoid being the next Uber or Lyft in an IC misclassification lawsuit. 

The ONLY real way to prevent this is by consulting with an attorney who is not only experienced with labor and employee misclassification lawsuit, but one that is experienced in the For-Hire Vehicle industry.