Uber taps users' contact info in attempt to sway NY legislators on 50-cent rideshare surcharge

Photo credit Scott Olson/Getty Images

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Uber sent a mass email to users on Thursday in an attempt to torpedo a proposal that would introduce a 50-cent surcharge on rideshares and a 25-cent surcharge on deliveries in New York City.

Money raised by the surcharge, which was proposed by the State Senate amid ongoing budget negotiations, would go toward the MTA. Legislators estimated the profits from the combined fees would total $540 million for the struggling transit system annually.

Uber’s email accused legislators of trying to “nickel and dime” New Yorkers and included a form to send a pre-written email against the proposal to legislators.

"Uber rides in New York are the most expensive in the country with six different taxes already —  10 times what one pays in New Jersey and 15 times what one pays in Connecticut,” Josh Gold, the senior director for public policy at Uber, told 1010 WINS. “Now Democrats in Albany want to make rides even more expensive."

Gold did not answer 1010 WINS’ questions about the ethics of using customer data to gin up dissent and influence legislators.

A spokesperson for State Sen. Jessica Ramos denounced the tactic as underhanded and compared the email to Uber's campaign to undermine Proposition 22 — a 2020 California ballot measure that allowed rideshare companies to classify their workers as independent contractors instead of employees, thereby undermining their entitlement to benefits and ability to organize.

“This is the same tactic they used to mislead voters in California during their campaign to codify workers misclassification through Prop. 22," the spokesperson told 1010 WINS. "The money spent on this lobbying campaign would be better spent supporting the drivers who are covering all the overhead for the company.”

Uber claims riders have already sent 10,000 emails against the proposal to representatives.

A leak of over 124,000 documents to the Guardian in 2022 revealed that Uber spent millions on sweeping lobbying and influence campaigns to manipulate laws across the world.

Uber planned to spend $90 million in 2016 on lobbying and public relations, according to one document.

The 50-cent surcharge would not apply to taxis, a service that was gutted by the ascendancy of rideshare apps like Uber.

The same Guardian leak showed Uber used artificially low prices subsidized by venture capital to undercut taxi drivers. Once the taxi industry was kneecapped, Uber was free to raise prices.

This strategy hit New York City taxi drivers hard, and the pandemic exacerbated the devastation.

There were 13,237 taxi cabs and about 40,000 other for-hire vehicles licensed by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2010, a year after Uber was founded.

By February 2020, there were about 11,400 taxis in the city. In June 2022, that number was cut by more than half to 4,900, according to the New York Post.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images