Taxi cab drivers voice objections to Uber, Lyft in upstate New York

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - While New York state lawmakers consider legalizing ridesharing in upstate New York, taxi cabs drivers took to the streets of Rochester to make their objections heard.

The ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft pose a competitive threat.

"We want to make sure our workers are taken care of and we want to make sure they can maintain a living wage," said Shirley Sobczak, a member of the Workers United Labor Union.

The protesters said Friday they are worried that cab drivers will lose their jobs.

"We're afraid that with Uber, and their business model, that will disrupt that," Sobczak said.

But the protest Friday made it clear the drivers see it as more than just competition. Safety regulations were also a cited concern.

"It's a matter of trust issue," said Melkie Demissie, a driver for Park Ave Transportation Services. "It's a matter of background check. It's a matter of criminal record, and all of that for the safety of the community."

As state lawmakers consider legalizing ridesharing upstate, they are also weighing safety regulations and fairness to licensed cab drivers who go through background checks.

"It's concerning to see right now that companies like Uber and Lyft are pushing for special treatment right now," said Zubin Soleimany of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. "They are not willing to follow the laws that other companies have to."

While the debate continues in Albany and in upstate community such as Rochester, there are some people who do not debate where they stand. susan Spinelli is one of them.

"I never will," Spinelli said when asked if she will ever use ridesharing. "I'll walk, I'll bike, I'll catch an elephant. I'll buy a helicopter. I will never in my life. I guarantee you I will never take an Uber."

City of Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren released a statement about the protest:

"Right now, we are waiting for the State Legislature to pass legislation that will allow ride sharing in Rochester. Until we see what their legislation contains, we do not know what the impact on jobs will be. However, I have heard our taxi drivers, and as we move forward with the ride sharing discussions, we will make sure that these concerns are raised and discussed."
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