Opinion: Mayor Baraka, Uber Works For Us

By Lorianna Ferrara | 04/15/16

PolitickerNJ

 

My name is Lorianna Ferrara. I have lived in Newark for the last five years. I am one of thousands of Newark residents who drives with Uber.

Six months ago, with a three-year-old boy of my own, I chose to drive with Uber in Newark to help keep things afloat at home. With no relatives or babysitters to call, I needed a way to earn income while my son went to school. He’s young and a handful, so he needs all of the attention I can give him.

Uber’s easy. It’s safe for drivers and isn’t closed-off like the taxicab industry which I would never be able to join because of the time and financial commitment. With Uber, I’ve fallen into a routine where I can drop my son off at school, earn money in Newark, and pick him up at the end of the day. I earn enough to keep things going, and when he’s sick I stay at home and take care of him.

It works for us.

But according to what Mayor Baraka wrote and said yesterday, I’m not playing by the rules. The Mayor said that by supporting my child and finally finding a solution that really works for me and my family, I am violating Newark’s “economic justice.”

Mayor Baraka: is it economic justice to choose the taxicab industry over Newark residents like me? Was it economic justice when you had your administration threaten to throw Uber driver-partners like me in jail for going to Newark airport and Penn Station? And is it economic justice to get the City Council to pass an ordinance that would charge Uber driver-partners $1,300 more than taxi drivers to work in our City and at the airport?

This ordinance Mayor Baraka proposed will destroy the livelihoods of thousands of other drivers like me who use the Uber app. And it’s clear that this is just the latest attempt by the Mayor to make sure taxi cabs are the only ones who can do pickups at the airport, Penn Station and in our city. That’s why his police force is spending all of its time trying to catch us at Penn Station so they can tow our cars. That’s why his administration stated that Uber drivers who went to Penn Station or Newark airport would be charged with criminal penalties and thrown in jail.

Mayor Baraka likes to talk a lot about bringing jobs to Newark, but the truth is he is using all of his power to take away work from Newark residents like me. The fees that Mayor Baraka is targeting me with in his ordinance could mean that I can no longer afford to drive with Uber. The Newark City Council will vote next week on an ordinance he proposed that would make Uber drivers like me pay $1,500 to get licenses in order to drive in Newark and pick passengers up at the airport and Penn Station.

I was scared when I learned about this proposal. How can I afford an extra $1,500? That’s close to a month’s rent. And if this happens in Newark, what’s to stop other cities from doing the same? Would I have to register and pay $1,500 to get a license every time I drive into a different city in New Jersey, like Elizabeth, or Secaucus, or Jersey City. That doesn’t make any sense, and will put all of us out of business.

Why target so many drivers who are just trying to earn a living? Why target the people that Mayor Baraka said he was fighting for?

If Mayor Baraka is fixated on Uber and thinks they are the bad corporate citizens, why for months has he been targeting the drivers like me? How is seizing my car improving corporate citizenship? He says Uber should pay its “fair share” but why is Mayor Baraka’s definition of fair share $1500 in licensing fees for Uber driver-partners and $300 in licensing fees for taxis?

To a high-ranking politician, $1,500 may not seem like a lot of money, but for a working parent like me this fine is a make-or-break issue. If Mayor Baraka’s ordinance is allowed to stand, it will hurt my ability to support my son. Driving with Uber has been a life-changing opportunity for my family, and it’s an opportunity that I can’t afford to lose.

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