Protesters say unregulated ride-hailing would do more harm than good

Feb 27, 2017

Not everyone in Buffalo is ready to welcome Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies just yet. Speakers gathered outside the offices of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership to explain why they want state leaders to wait.


Activists gathered outside the offices of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership Monday morning to urge state leaders not to rush with legislation that legalizes ride-hailing services in Upstate cities. They said companies such as Uber leave a lot to be desired in their business models.

The Reverend Kirk Laubenstein of the Coalition for Economic Justice opens a news conference Monday morning outside the headquarters of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. Laubenstein and other speakers urged state leaders to hold off on legislation legalizing ride-hailing services outside New York City, unless the companies are held to conditions that promote fair wages and a level competitive playing field.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Among their top claims was that ride-hailing drivers are exploited, working for low wages while not enjoying some of the benefits others enjoy including taxi drivers and other transport operators.

"Uber gets away without having to pay overtime, unemployment insurance, workers compensation, disability insurance, because they treat them as though they were independent contractors," said Deborah Hayes of Communication Workers of America District 1.

Other complaints included a lack of access for people with disabilities. While Uber was singled out by speakers through most of the news conference, participating activists say other companies including Lyft are of the same model. 

Will Yelder, who sits on a community advisory panel for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, suggested Uber is really in the business of selling its app, which is required to utilize the ride-hailing service.

"Uber does not build communities," Yelder said. "Uber is not an employment agency. All Uber does is sell software. For all you people out there who think Uber is bringing all these jobs to the community and make Buffalo so progressive, the only thing that is going to be progressive is the dollar that's going in their pocket from you."

Yelder suggested state leaders would be better off investing in expanded and improved public transportation. Others stated that they'd welcome ride-hailing to town, if they were made to play on a level playing field.

"We can do all of these services. That's the thing about it but we need to do it fair. That's all we're saying," said Jim Anderson of Citizen Action."We've got plenty of room. We're a growing city. All we want is fair business entrepreneurs to come to the city and do right by the people."