Coalition pushes against new TNC driver rules

FILE - In this March 12, 2014 file photo, Katie Baranyuk gets out of a car driven by Dara Jenkins, a driver for the ride-sharing service Lyft, after getting a ride to downtown Seattle. Seattle may soon become the first city to let drivers of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft collectively bargain over pay and working conditions. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new coalition is gathering signatures and demanding changes after the Austin City Council passed new regulations, which have Uber and Lyft promising to eventually leave town.

The council passed an ordinance earlier this month creating new requirements for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), including a phased in approach to incorporate fingerprint background checks.

“While there is no one thing that will ensure public safety, the least that the city can do is implement the recommended best-practices,” stated a news release from Council Member Ann Kitchen’s office.

Now, ATX Safer Streets, Austin Music People and an organization called TechNet are trying to gather 30,000 petition signatures to get the City Council to pass a new ordinance- which does not include a fingerprint background check-or put the measure on the ballot.

“This is my livelihood. I’ve been doing this full time for a while now,” said Nicole Redler who drives for Lyft and is supporting the petition.

“We will turn the signatures in whenever we have them finished, but we’re aiming for the November election,” said Caroline Joiner, executive director of TechNet for Texas.

Joiner says they plan to get help from drivers like Redler, who plans to ask passengers to support the petition.

“The people of Austin love ridesharing, and this coalition gives them an opportunity to share their enthusiasm in a meaningful way,” wrote Uber spokesperson Debbee Hancock in a statement to KXAN News.

The coalition is also launching a political action committee called Ridesharing Works for Austin.

Joiner said it was too soon to gauge what kind of financial support Uber and Lyft might give to their efforts, but said the companies will be part of the push to change the rules and essentially undo what the council passed this month.

“Uber and Lyft are obviously involved,” said Joiner. “Their drivers and users are directly impacted by this bad city ordinence. So they’re absolutely involved. What that involvement looks like in detail, I don’t know yet. We just got started (Monday).”

A Lyft spokesperson wrote in a news release after the council vote that the company will be in Austin until “mandatory fingerprinting forces us to leave.”

“Mayor Adler and Council Members said they wanted a solution that would keep Uber in Austin, but this law will not do that,” stated an Uber news release after the vote.

Despite Uber and Lyft’s plan to leave, a new company to the app-based transportation market is starting up in Austin, despite the fingerprint background checks.

“First of all, we support what the council has passed,” said Jonathan Laramy, chief experience officer for Get Me. “Second of all, I don’t understand why [Uber, Lyft, Get Me, and others are not] sitting down… to help learn from each other (and examine new technology in terms of) how can we not overregulate, but make sure everybody is still safe and secure and not hinder the on-demand driver network from making a fair wage to either supplement their income or to have a full-time job.”

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