New coalition pushes back against ridesharing bill

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The New York State Assembly is going back into session this week and lawmakers could soon take up a bill that would expand ridesharing services to Western New York.

Members of a newly-formed High Road Economic Development Coalition came together Monday morning to speak out against the current bill, urging lawmakers not to pass it.

The Coalition, which represents several community activists, social justice advocates, and labor union leaders, addressed the media outside the offices of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, one of the groups that’s been a leading voice in support of bringing ridesharing to our area.

Coalition members say the bill that could soon be considered by the Assembly puts profits over people.

“The bottom line is Uber does not care about the city of Buffalo,” said Will Yelder, a member of the Coaltion who also serves on the NFTA Community Action Committee.

Coalition members say the bill making its way through the legislature fails to protect drivers and fails to serve many members of our community, especially those with disabilities. The bill does not require ridesharing companies like Uber to follow the same rules as other transportation companies when it comes to creating accessibility for people with disabilities.

Coalition members also say the bill allows ridesharing companies to list drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees, which means the company doesn’t have to pay for their unemployment insurance, workers comp, or payroll tax.

“We want good paying jobs, jobs that can actually support families, and Uber and the gig economy does not do that,” said Rev. Kirk Laubenstein, a member of the Coalition, representing the Coalition for Economic Justice Buffalo.

“By virtue of being contractors, they have higher tax rates and are responsible for their own equipment, and this is the way that Uber is able to undercut cab companies and other services providers that are already existing here,” agreed Rebecca Riley, a community activist with the Coalition.

That said, there is a lot of support for ridesharing in our area, too. A Sienna College poll of New York State voters released Monday shows overwhelming support for expanding the services.

Members of the coalition who gathered in Buffalo Monday acknowledged that ride sharing probably will come to our area eventually, but they say, they want the law to better protect everyone if and when it does.

The State Senate passed a ridesharing bill earlier this year, but a similar measure stalled in the Assembly last year. It is unclear how the bill will fare in the Assembly this time around.

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