Basel Mansour, who has spent a half-decade shuttling riders for Uber, could hardly wait.
Last month, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission ordered ride hail apps to lift wages for New York City drivers beginning a week before Christmas.
Mansour, a father of a 1-year-old who has worked long hours through a year of brutal inflation, expected much-needed holiday help from the city’s planned rules, which would lift per-ride pay by around 10%.
“I was even counting the days, hours and minutes, waiting for this raise,” said Mansour, 42, who lives in Jersey City and drives his Honda Civic across the Hudson River daily.
He will have to wait longer.
After Uber filed a last-minute lawsuit against the city, asserting the hikes could tarnish the app’s reputation, a judge granted the company’s request for a block on the raises until after the court considers the case.
Justice Arthur Engoron of Manhattan Supreme Court ordered the freeze last Tuesday, six days before the raise was to take effect. He scheduled the case’s next hearing for Jan. 31, halting the hike until after the holidays. The city appealed to lift the judge’s order, but was denied on Friday.
Uber suggested in court papers that it was looking out for its drivers, claiming they could be hurt by soft demand weakened by a raise in ride prices. Many of the company’s drivers saw it differently.
“The current fares are not enough. I’m angry, and I’m devastated,” Mansour said. “I’m really shocked by what Uber did.”
Arifa Tirmizi, who has driven Uber for six years, said the company’s suit would land a blow to her seven children. “This affects not just me, but my whole family,” said Tirmizi, 38.
Tirmizi said she moved from Queens to Long Island in the winter to cut costs.
The pay hikes are projected to cost Uber and Lyft about $2.50 per ride. Tirmizi said they could have saved her a precious hour or two of work per day at the height of the frenzied holiday season.
“They’re being the Grinch of the season,” Tirmizi said of Uber. “They’re ruining it for so many drivers.”
In its suit, Uber said that the wage hikes were based on a flawed interpretation of inflation data that did not properly account for gas prices that have started to cool.
The complaint said the commission’s pay rules would cost the company at least $21 million per month, or “irreparably damage Uber’s reputation” if passed on to ride prices.
Frustrated workers hope to take their own swing at Uber’s reputation and coffers on Monday.
They plan to strike and hold a protest outside Uber’s lower Manhattan office, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents app and cab drivers. (A pay raise for taxi drivers, authorized along with the rules for apps in November, is still set to take effect on Monday.)
After organizers planned the strike on a Thursday night Zoom call, they quickly gained a powerful backer: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the firebrand Bronx-Queens Democrat, who urged New Yorkers to join a citywide boycott.
“Do NOT use Uber this Monday,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Friday.
After filing the suit, Uber has continued to present itself as an ally of its drivers.
Freddi Goldstein, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a Thursday statement: “Drivers do critical work and deserve to be paid fairly, but rates should be calculated in a way that is transparent, consistent and predictable.”
The company’s drivers said they were surprised both that Uber tried to stop the city-ordered pay hikes, and that it worked.
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“I kept telling myself, ‘I don’t think any judge will grant this,’” said Oltimdje Ouattara, 43, of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
The seven-year Uber veteran said he drives to support his three children, including two who live in his native Burkina Faso. “It’s very expensive now to buy anything,” Ouattara said glumly. “It’s not easy.”
“I’m really disappointed with Uber,” he said.