Watch Now

Chicago union seeks wage, benefit boosts for rideshare drivers

Independent Drivers Guild says it has successfully improved working conditions for New York City Uber and Lyft drivers

A rideshare drivers union that has helped push up wages and benefits for gig economy workers in New York City has expanded to Chicago. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG), an affiliate union to the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, has announced it has launched in Chicago in an effort to drive up wages and improve benefits for gig economy drivers in the city.

IDG Chicago will absorb Gig Workers Matter, a Chicago-based organization working for rideshare drivers and other gig economy workers. IDG represents more than 200,000 Uber, Lyft and other gig economy workers in the New York City area, including Connecticut and New Jersey.

“When workers stand together, we can achieve real change. With both of our organizations’ focus on new 21st century organizing models, we can achieve tremendous changes for the drivers in Chicago and Illinois,” Brendan Sexton, executive director of IDG, said in a statement. “We are excited to launch IDG Chicago as we continue to expand our campaign to empower gig workers.”

Chicago rideshare drivers Lenny Sanchez, Steven Everett and Mark Smithivas co-founded Gig Workers Matter and will continue their efforts with IDG Chicago.

“For too long Uber and Lyft have held all the power. They hike prices for riders, cut pay for drivers and change the app whenever they want, and drivers don’t have any recourse. We’re excited to launch IDG-Chicago to fight back,” Sanchez said.

When workers stand together, we can achieve real change. With both of our organizations’ focus on new 21st century organizing models, we can achieve tremendous changes for the drivers in Chicago and Illinois.

Brendan Sexton, executive director of IDG

Everett said the success IDG has had in improving wages and benefits for app-based drivers in New York City was enticing.

“IDG beat the odds to win higher pay and benefits for drivers in New York City and working together, we know we can do the same here in Chicago,” he said.

The Machinists Union (IAMAW District 15) founded IDG in 2016 to help app-based drivers receive what they call fair wages. The organization helped usher in minimum wage requirements for drivers in 2018 when New York City’s powerful Taxi and Limousine Commission voted in favor of a policy that mandated drivers earn a minimum of $17.22 per hour after expenses, according to IDG.

Under the plan, drivers are paid based on a formula that considers mileage, time and the average percentage of time a car has a passenger in it. The union said the average driver would see a $9,600-per-year increase. The previous base rate was $11.90 per hour.

The founders in Chicago hope the same benefits can filter through to the Windy City’s drivers.

“Building power for gig workers is not easy, especially when the big platform companies have millions to pour into lobbying campaigns like we saw in California. We can’t let drivers get steam-rolled in Chicago. We need a voice in our future,” Smithivas said in a statement.

IDG said it has given rideshare drivers a voice and helped them achieve better pay, including making tips an option directly through the app, access to bathroom facilities at locations such as airports, “relief stands” where drivers can get out of their cars to stretch without being ticketed, wellness and education programs, and access to legal services.

In 2019, Uber and Lyft drivers in 10 locations protested low wages and poor benefits. IDG drivers were not part of the protest, organized by Rideshare Drivers United, with Sexton telling AM New York that drivers stood with the protesters in “solidarity.”

“We’re standing in solidarity with the striking workers all across this nation which has now become a global action to demand a livable wage,” Sexton told the site, citing the guild’s no-strike provisions in their contracts with the ridesharing services.

One of the complaints Rideshare Drivers United had was the lack of recourse for drivers who are kicked off the apps. IDG’s website says its agreements with New York City have led to Uber and Lyft drivers there having the “strongest appeal process in the U.S.”

Gig economy drivers have been fighting a battle in California under the state’s AB5 legislation, which mandated certain contract drivers be classified as employees. In the November election, California voters passed Proposition 22, which exempted Uber and Lyft drivers from the regulation.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Brian Straight.

You may also like:

The FreightWaves Top 10: Bankruptcies, capacity concerns, protests and Trevor Milton’s departure

Maximizing trailer utilization: Why is it so hard?

Looking back at the Year of the Truck Driver

One Comment

Comments are closed.

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]