Ken Lewis grew up on the island of Grenada, and witnessed the progressive aftermath of its 1979 revolution. “I remember the power of cooperatives, people getting land, turning places that were barren into productive places,” he says. That image stayed with him after he moved to New York City for grad school and started driving a taxi on the side. Now, several decades later, Lewis is finally getting a chance to put the power of cooperatives into practice, in service of the drivers he worked with for so long.
He is one of three cofounders of The Drivers Cooperative (TDC), which aims to realize a long-held dream of socially conscious New Yorkers in a hurry: a ridesharing app that you can feel good about. When it rolls out to the public early next year, TDC will become New York City’s first worker-owned ridesharing platform — owned by the drivers themselves, rather than by big investors and executives. Its founders’ brazen idea is that TDC can actually gain a competitive advantage over Uber and Lyft — saving money and funneling those savings back to drivers — by doing away with the most exploitative practices of that dominant duopoly. “The way the [Uber] model is organized is extractive. It takes out the money and doesn’t give back much. Imagine a company that doesn’t have any profits, but has created billionaires,” Lewis says. “That money comes from drivers.”