Protesters gathered in bright red t-shirts and matching masks bearing the Independent Drivers Guild logo. Placards bearing slogans like “Freeze Hiring, Reactive Workers Now!” and “Unlock Uber” were being handed out at a table toward the entrance. What the gathering lacked in sheer numbers, it made up with enthusiasm.
A wide range of speakers approached the podium — IDG members, drivers, local and prospective politicians. Nearly every speech was followed by a spirited call and response from the crowd, culminating in pro-union chants.
Previous protests have found drivers opting for other locations — perhaps most notably in 2019, when Brooklyn Bridge traffic toward the mayor’s residence at Gracie Mansion was slowed to a crawl. Today’s location was perfectly suited for such an event.
The gathering was framed by the Falchi Building, a large office space in Queens, New York, housing some 36,000 square feet of Uber offices. The neighborhood of Long Island City has long served as an epicenter for the city’s ridesharing operations. Lyft has offices nearby, as does the Taxi Limousine Commission (TLC). Walk down a block or two and you’ll almost certainly stumble across rows upon rows of yellow cabs.
The concerns of gig workers are nothing new, of course, but today’s crowd gathered in Long Island City, Queens to add support to a proposed bill currently making its way through the state legislature in Albany. The legislation is designed to make it easy for gig economy workers in the state to unionize.
“Currently, the gig workers have no voice in their workplace. No voice to negotiate pay or benefits of workplace policies,” bill sponsor state Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island explained in a recent interview. “And I have been talking about this issue for several years now. The world of work is changing, and labor law has not caught up to technology and how it has changed the world of work.”