New York — As Uber advances its plans to expand upstate, New Yorkers expect that ride-hailing apps would adhere to the same safety standards and driver protections currently in place in New York City. Yet Uber is trying to get out of this basic obligation by proposing to start its own workers’ compensation fund—under private control—which would not offer sufficient protections for riders and drivers.
As a matter of New York State law, Uber currently is required to provide drivers with workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment benefits, safety training, and support services as a member of the award-winning, state-regulated Black Car Fund (BCF) that insures both drivers and riders enjoy the highest professional standards. However, in the last legislative session, Uber attempted to get out of this common sense requirement, which all black car dispatch bases statewide must meet.
The New York Black Car Operators’ Injury Compensation Fund, now known simply as the BCF, was created by statute for the sole purpose of providing workers' compensation coverage to black car operators in the state of New York. The statute was signed into law by Governor George Pataki in May 1999. The BCF derives its income from a 2.5 percent surcharge, which is billed and collected by member bases from their clients and then remitted to the fund. Today, it has approximately 300 member bases and covers more than 33,000 affiliated drivers.
“Uber is an ambitious company with big plans, but the company’s continued success cannot come at the expense of its customers or the real-life people who drive for it. Upstate New Yorkers deserve the same protections that exist in New York City for a safer ride,” said Ira Goldstein, BCF executive director. “We want Uber to thrive, but New Yorkers also need to be protected. There is no reason we can’t do both.”
According to Goldstein and the BCF leadership, Uber should:
1. Mandate fingerprinting as part of any criminal background check to protect riders. Uber agreed to fingerprinting for its New York City drivers but refused to do so in Austin, Texas, and instead left the city. Convenience is not more important than rider safety, and Uber continues to be plagued by frequent news reports about its drivers harassing or even sexually assaulting female passengers. This should be a major concern as Uber markets itself on college campuses where N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo has made a concerted effort to address rape statistics. New York City riders know that when they step into an Uber, their driver has been fully vetted for their protection, and Upstate riders deserve the same peace of mind.
2. Remain part of New York State’s mandated workers’ compensation fund and continue to provide drivers with workers’ compensation insurance, safety training, and support services. An independent analysis by Oliver Wyman Actuarial Consulting found Uber’s proposed fund to be “economically unsound,” concluding that it would result in “gross underfinancing.”
Drivers cannot work without a minimum standard of protection, but Goldstein says the BCF goes even further to encourage a safe and healthy workforce through a Wellness Program, which includes:
- Healthy Driving, which is instructed by a BCF Driver Wellness Coach and addresses issues of driving in NYC, as well as the affects it has on the drivers. The program also includes instruction on posture, start movements, exercise, and stress reduction.
- Hands-Only CPR instruction, through a partnership with New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell’s Heart Institute
- Share the Road, a partnership with Bike New York, to reinforce drivers’ sense of responsibility to provide leadership as the most responsible and professional team of drivers on the roadways of NYC.
- The BCF Wellness STEP 2016 includes AMBER Alert training in conjunction with the New York State Police Department to educate drivers on how to register to receive text message AMBER Alerts, as well as the steps drivers can actively take upon receiving the notification that an AMBER Alert has been issued.