In response to Uber’s blatant disregard for the rights of the disabled-and the flouting of the American with Disabilities Act by so many of the actors in the car for hire business-a new group has been formed, New Yorkers for Equal Transportation Access (NYETA), to make sure that all of these passenger service companies conform to the laws and regulations that taxis must adhere to. It is our strong belief that so-called innovations are gold mines for the hedge fund operators.
Why we need action
- NYC riders and taxi cab drivers need a level regulatory playing field: As the rise of Uber has begun to transform the transportation services industry, what has become clear is that for all of the support that the newcomer has garnered from a segment of the riding public, it has totally ignored the needs of the disabled. It has done so by claiming, against all evidence, that it is a technology company and not a Transportation Network Company-the generic name for most taxi and other car pick up services;
- Uber just one of many: Uber, however, is certainly not alone. Every single vehicle licensed by the TLC should be subject to the same rules and regulations that taxis have. Uber, while the most visible flouter of the regulations, is in amply good company-Lyft, Dial 7 and Carmel come to mind;
- Need One Set of Rules: Every single black car or livery vehicle licensed by the TLC, needs to be brought under the same regulatory umbrella; and theTLC, by failing to enforce the laws on existing vehicles and continuing to allow even new vans to enter the market that aren’t complying, shares as much of the blame as visible villain Uber;
- Give the TLC the power: The TLC has the power to make every car accessible and we are in favor of that even for taxis. There is nothing in the federal law prohibiting the agency from going above and beyond what is mandated for the benefit of all their passengers. It’s high time that we stop allowing the disabled from being treated as second class citizens. There is, though, a special place for Uber. No technological sleight of hand should allow this darling of Wall Street hedge funds to place itself outside of the law;
- Uber is a Ponzi Scheme: In the name of innovation, a handful of hedge fund operators and well connected politicians are poised to make millions once Uber goes public-and in the process, workers and existing businesses will be badly hurt. As the insightful Thomas Frank points out;
“Innovation…is often just code for new methods (from Uber to credit default swaps) to evade necessary protective regulations. Many such innovations pump up profits for rich entrepreneurs and shareholders by unloading employees with benefits in favor of part-timers and freelancers with no benefits. Democrats take big donations from such firms, laud them in speeches, and tell everyone else to get out of the way of the “disruption.”
– NY Post – 3/12/16
6. Proliferating Lawsuits: Because of its questionable business practices-and its disdain for the disabled-Uber is being sued all over the country:
“In three ADA-related cases over the past eight months, in California, Texas, and Arizona, Uber has been slammed with lawsuits that allege the company discriminates against blind and wheelchair-using passengers. The suits demand Uber abide by the ADA, but Uber claims that because it’s a technology company, not a transportation service, it doesn’t fall under the ADA’s jurisdiction.”
Now, the Department of Justice has joined in chastising Uber for its claim that it is somehow exempt from the same regulations that govern other taxi services;
“Earlier this year, the Justice Department intervened in a lawsuit that the National Federation of the Blind of California brought against Uber, which accuses the company of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. Uber moved to dismiss the case, arguing that as a tech platform, it’s not bound by the ADA. But the Justice Department didn’t see it this way, and in a statement of interest in February, the Department urged the federal court in California not to drop the case…
“The United States’ interests are particularly strong here,” the department said, adding that the lawsuit “goes to the very heart of the ADA’s goals.” In April, the court decided to let the lawsuit proceed.
In New York, advocates are also taking aim-filing a complaint with the city’s Human Rights Commission;
“In the complaint, Dustin Jones — who has appeared in United Spinal Association ads critical of Uber’s wheelchair accessibility — alleges the ride-hailing company has not done enough to enable wheelchair riders to use its service. He accuses Uber of discriminating against people with disabilities.” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/05/21/uber-disability-laws-don-t-apply-to-us.html)
Uber responds to all of these legal attacks by claiming they have addressed the issue by creating an app! What does the app do? It funnels the call to a regular cab company to respond to the disabled customer. Gerstman points out the absurdity of this defense;
“Uber is saying that they comply with the ADA by referring customers to the very taxis that they are trying to put out of business-and who if they are successful will not be around to pick up the disabled. Talk about chutzpah!”
As NYETA spokesperson, Brad Gerstman points out;
“There is a reason why Uber is being sued all over the country. In jurisdictions across this country, disabled folks are being humiliated by Uber drivers-denied service because of their disability. That a company whose valuation has been estimated to exceed $50 billion feels it can treat the disabled as second class citizens underscore the arrogance and the greed of Uber and its high roller investors.”
New Yorkers for Equal Transportation Access is planning an aggressive grass roots lobbying campaign to bring down the arrogance of Uber, and through our campaign insure that everyone in this industry plays by the same rules that NYC taxis are complying with every day of the year. Walmart got its comeuppance in NYC, Uber-and its imitators-are next on the menu.
We will be reaching out to all of our elected officials to bring these concerns to their attention and to create a broad-based coalition that unites taxpaying business owners, the disabled, and NYC riders in the campaign to create a level playing field that works-not in the interest of the 1%-but of all New Yorkers who believe in fair play.