July 2, 2017
By Steven Wishnia
New York, NY – Ride-hail drivers waiting for fares at JFK Airport finally have a place to go to the bathroom. The Port Authority has installed port-a-potties in the airport’s ride-hail lot, the Independent Drivers Guild announced June 30.
The installation came after a campaign the union began last August, in which more than 1,600 people signed a petition urging the Port Authority to install bathrooms. “The lack of clean, accessible bathrooms is a problem throughout the city. Drivers have been bringing this up with rideshare companies and the Port Authority for years,” it said. “This is a daily indignity that the drivers who service JFK have to endure.”
The IDG said Uber, Lyft, Juno, and Via drivers “stepped up the pressure” in the last week of June, “with a barrage of nearly 100 calls to Port Authority.”
A union spokesperson said the effort focused on JFK Airport “because it is the most desperate situation—there is absolutely no facility there for ride-hail drivers.” There are porta-potties at LaGuardia, he said, but “drivers have reported serious concerns about the cleanliness of those facilities.”
“No workers should have to suffer years without a restroom facility. This step is a testament to the power of drivers coming together with one voice to demand action,” ride-hail driver Michele Dottin said in an IDG statement. “That said, this is a temporary solution and we will continue to urge the Port Authority to put in place a restroom with running water as soon as possible.”
While the union said the port-a-potties will provide drivers with “much-needed relief,” it plans to continue to push for a restroom or restroom trailer with running water. It said Uber offered to pay for one several months ago, but the proposal has been stalled at Port Authority.
“Running water is necessary for the health and hygiene of working drivers and the public they serve,” the IDG said. Many drivers are Muslims, it added, and they are supposed to wash their hands and face before the five times a day that they pray.
Having to drive 12-hour shifts without enough time or a place to stop and urinate can cause “extensive genital and urinary pathology,” Dr. Alon Mass, a urologist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, told the New York Post in 2014. If they urinate too rarely, he said, it can lead to a distended bladder and a host of urinary-tract infections—a condition he called “taxicab syndrome.”
“Essentially, the problem arises because drivers do not have the time or the availability to stop their car to urinate,” Dr. Mass told DNAinfo after the petition campaign began last December. “Those factors are related to financial, but also related to the fact that there are not that many areas in the city dedicated to bathrooms for drivers.”