Courtesy of Adalgisa Payero-Diarra
- Adalgisa Payero-Diarra is a NYC-based taxi, Uber, and Lyft driver.
- Payero-Diarra became a taxi driver in 2013, then joined Uber and Lyft in 2019.
- These are the worst parts of Payero-Diarra’s job, as told to writer Jamie Killin.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Adalgisa Payero-Diarra, a NYC-based taxi, Uber, and Lyft driver who serves as the secretary for the Union of Taxi Drivers of New York. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I started as a taxi driver in 2013 and began driving for Uber and Lyft in 2019. Now, I’m a part of the Union of Taxi Drivers of New York, a group advocating for the rights of taxi drivers in New York City. Here’s what I think are the worst parts of the job.
1. Low wages, especially with rising gas prices and inflation
We’re struggling to pay bills and support our families. We’re in an economic crisis, so the cost of everything has gone up — including gas. It’s been really hard.
We’re often making way less money due to higher gas prices. It’s pushed us to work more hours, so we’re more tired and stressed. That means less time for family, and it’s taking its toll on a lot of people. A lot of customers believe what they’re paying goes solely to the driver, and that’s not the case.
2. Lack of health insurance
A lot of drivers don’t have the resources to address their health concerns, or have health insurance like many traditional full-time jobs offer. I consider myself lucky because I have insurance coverage through my husband’s job, but a lot of people can’t cover it.
Drivers without health insurance for themselves often can’t cover it for their families either, so that’s a big weight on their shoulders.
3. Lack of mental-health resources
Mental-health issues are really on the rise due to the pandemic and all the turmoil we’re seeing around the world. Everyone is stressed and trying to make ends meet, and we often don’t have access to affordable care.
4. Crime and violence
As drivers, we have to think about and be aware of violence in the city. Taxi drivers and delivery workers are targets of crime because we carry cash — we’re a target for assault and robbery, and even if we don’t have cash on us, people assume we do. That puts us in danger.
Day to day, my biggest annoyance is the traffic. Anyone who lives in New York knows that’s one of the biggest issues in the city: There’s always traffic.
I know the city is trying to reduce the congestion, but delivery trucks, school buses, the bus line, and more just add to it.
6. Getting tickets
We’re always getting tickets for different reasons. If we drop a customer where there’s a “No standing” sign, and a cop sees it and feels like it, they’re going to give you a ticket.
Or if somebody comes running across the street while we’re turning and we stop suddenly, a cop might see it as us blocking them. That’s another ticket. It makes our job difficult.
7. Lack of support from rideshare and delivery apps
We’re supposed to be partners with the apps we work with, but that’s not happening. App executives are making a lot of money because of us, but we’re supposed to be in this together.
There shouldn’t be a better income for them than the drivers when we’re doing most of the work. Yes, they help us through the app and the system, but they’re getting a large cut of the money while we pay for things like gas, insurance, and other fees.
8. No union support
If we can create a union, we’ll be able to come together and have the voice we need to express our demands. We want to be able to talk with the people in charge at both the city level — and the apps — to get some of these issues resolved.
Through the Union of Taxi Drivers of New York, we want to bring all the taxi drivers together so we can have a better income and more resources.