He began investigating cooperatives during the pandemic as Uber and Lyft drivers struggled to gain access to unemployment insurance and the proper protective equipment. Lewis and his brother worked in the taxi and black car industry, but said they had dreamed of running their own business.
The Drivers Cooperative receives technical and business assistance from volunteers from the tech industry, Orlando said.
The cooperative aims to increase drivers’ salaries and address other common concerns, such as predatory loan rates and surprise deactivations, that cut off the apps that connect them with passengers. The group is partnering with the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union to help drivers refinance their vehicle loans, an effort it hopes will further reduce their expenses.
In 2017, Uber settled a $ 20 million fine with the Federal Trade Commission to settle claims that it misrepresented drivers’ earnings and loan terms. The company no longer offers vehicle financing.
Drivers said they will most likely continue to drive for concert companies or black car services in addition to the Drivers Cooperative, adding it to the variety of transportation and delivery apps on their phones.
“Working with Uber has been something you do because you have no other choice,” said Michael Ugwu, who has driven for Uber for six years. He said he would continue to drive for Uber, but would give priority to customers requesting rides through the cooperative’s app.
“Having your own business is the way to go and the way out,” Ugwu said. “Even if I make less money, I will focus on the cooperative to make sure we are successful.”