New York City

A new way for ride-hail drivers to fight back?

What would happen if drivers took advantage of an antitrust loophole and incorporated into a single entity?

Uber and Lyft drivers protest outside the New York Stock Exchange on May 8.

Uber and Lyft drivers protest outside the New York Stock Exchange on May 8. Shutterstock

The fight to give ride-hail drivers more labor protections is heating up, as California inches closer to passing a bill that would codify and build upon a state court decision expanding the definition of “employee” to include some gig workers like Uber and Lyft drivers. Legislation to give those workers more labor protections was also taken up in New York at the end of the last state legislative session, but the bill was met with dissatisfaction by both labor and industry groups, meaning that for now, ride-hail drivers are just independent contractors.

Those drivers pretty much have their hands tied when it comes to organizing collective action like coordinated price surges in an attempt to leverage negotiating power with Uber and Lyft. Doing so could leave drivers vulnerable to federal antitrust law, which bans independent contractor cartels – a point made by Boston College Law School professor Hiba Hafiz in a recent New York Times op-ed. In order to reduce the risk of that liability, Hafiz suggests that drivers take advantage of an antitrust loophole and incorporate into a single entity – Lyft Drivers, Inc., for example. Joint ventures, she says, are given more leeway under antitrust law.

But Bhairavi Desai, president of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, says that option isn’t a realistic one. “The bottom line is that this is just out of touch with drivers’ reality and doesn’t add any real protection, since Uber can just fire all those drivers, as the author admits,” Desai told City & State. “The author’s proposal also overestimates the impact of antitrust law and, more importantly, underestimates a good old-fashioned rule in organizing: the bosses will always fight you. Be ready to fight back on your own terms – not theirs.”

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