On June 1, as part of its “Pride Month” publicity campaign, Uber announced “plans” to “create a safer, more inclusive company” for transgender, nonbinary and other LGBTQ+ identifying passengers and drivers.
Uber said it would allow trans and nonbinary drivers to display their real names, instead of the dead names they were assigned at birth. Uber said it would establish a $60,000 fund to help its driver-workers cover the costs of updating their legal IDs and records.
After June 1, just days later, many transgendered drivers had their accounts suspended, because the pictures they submitted did not match the original pictures they had on file, for years in some cases! Why would they match — before and after they transitioned? Whether deliberate or not, this process has amounted to almost a sort of entrapment.
In mid-June, Adrian Escobedo received an in-app message saying he had submitted fraudulent documentation and was banned from driving for Uber Eats. When Escobedo asked which documents were determined to be fraudulent, he received no response. The ACLU is representing many drivers who have been impacted in this transphobic discrimination, which has caused a lack of livelihood and suffering emotional crisis. Uber has since reactivated Escobedo’s account. (tinyurl.com/yctj3m8v)
I might add that Lyft has a similar program, which appears to work and benefit trans and nonbinary workers.
Adding to this factor of online-employment access to those responsible, in an example of how “old school” is sometimes more resolvable than online access to resolution, I am a retired trans woman New York City yellow taxi driver of over 25 years. I must say, I never had this particular problem, though I did have safety concerns as a trans taxi driver at times from passengers. But if I did have an issue of recognition of my realness, together I and other trans and cis Local 3036 Union members could go face to face at the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission on 42nd Street in person, which would greatly enhance our chances to raise hell. Online drivers do not have any such option, which is a problem in getting accessibility to resolution of problems with management.
As of this date, some driver-workers like Adrian have finally received justice. But we workers need to continue this campaign to pressure all online apps to end this transphobic garbage, until our final victory.
The writer is a former chairperson of New York City Taxi Drivers Union, Local 3036.