James Conigliaro Jr. is the founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, a nonprofit organization representing app-based drivers and fighting for a fair for-hire vehicle industry. Last year, the IDG became the first drivers’ group to sign an agreement with Uber to provide basic worker protections and a voice in the workplace.The son of International Association of Machinists general vice president James Conigliaro Sr., Conigliaro began his career with the Machinists after he graduated from college in 2006, as an organizer for District Lodge 15, which represents over 19,000 workers in the Northeast. He then attended St. John’s University School of Law and worked as a labor lawyer for Pitta & Giblin LLP before rejoining the Machinists as general counsel in 2011. He serves on the New York City Central Labor Council’s executive board, and was also chief of staff of the Machinists’ Eastern Territory.
Conigliaro took lessons from the union’s previous experiences organizing New York’s black-car drivers to form the IDG. It won its first campaign last June, when Uber announced that it would offer passengers an option to leave a tip within the app—after the IDG persuaded the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission that ride-hail apps should be required such an tipping option.
While the IDG does not have collective-bargaining power, Conigliaro believes that it is the most viable organizing model as long as drivers are classified as independent contractors. “The purpose of the Guild was to provide as much support and protections now while building an organization that allowed drivers to push for real change industry-wide,” he told LaborPress in September 2016. “If it is decided drivers in New York City are employees, then we will organize the drivers and fight hard to collectively bargain on their behalf, just like we have for the last 20 years. But until that time, it’s important that we continue to fight for them now.”
He lives in the Rockaway Park section of Queens with his wife and three daughters.