A Chicago City Council committee on Friday approved an ordinance requiring Uber and Lyft drivers to adhere to more of the same rules that apply to taxi drivers in the country’s third-largest city.
The proposal will now go to the larger legislative body Wednesday, giving Mayor Rahm Emanuel a few days to persuade local lawmakers to ease off the rules. The mayor has argued for months that the estimated 90,000 Uber and Lyft drivers in the city is good for competition and increases the amount of cab service available in the city’s rougher crime-ridden districts.
Uber and Lyft have threatened to leave the city if the ordinance goes through that would require their drivers to be fingerprinted as part of criminal background checks, be drug tested, and be checked for money owed to the city. Taxi drivers are submitted to the same requirements.
"We're not forcing anybody out of the city of Chicago — we want everyone in," Alderman Anthony Beale, the ordinance's sponsor, told the Chicago Tribune about the measure.
Ride-hailing is popular among young professionals here and elsewhere, and the mayor believes offering the popular service would help foster local economic development.
But taxi unions oppose ride-hailing services as unfair competition, and labor-rights advocates point out that drivers are treated as independent contractors who are at the mercy of company-directed fare changes. When Uber, a money-losing Silicon Valley unicorn, lowered fares in 80 cities in January, drivers were surprised with cuts to their income.
In May, Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin, Texas, over a local ordinance requiring fingerprinting as part of drivers’ background checks. Since the exit of the two popular ride-hailing services, Austenites have been trying out Arcade City, a growing peer-to-peer “Uber alternative” aimed at connecting drivers with customers.