The Taxi and Limousine Commission announced plans today to create a rule requiring that rideshare apps including Uber offer customers a tipping option.

"Professional drivers are a vital part of both our city’s transportation network and economy, and driving for-hire has supported hundreds of thousands of New York City families for decades," TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said in a statement. "This rule proposal will be an important first step to improve earning potential in the for-hire vehicle industry, but it is just one piece of a more comprehensive effort to improve the economic well-being of drivers."

The announcement follows nine months of pressure from the Independent Drivers Guild, a union-esque subsidiary of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The campaign included an ad push, a petition signed by more than 11,000 people, and a formal request to the TLC. The Guild represents around 50,000 rideshare drivers in New York City.

The proposed rule is supposed to be formally introduced by July. It will then go through a 90-day process wherein drivers and companies can quibble about the exact language, according to Guild founder James Conigliaro, Jr.

Conigliaro praised the proposed rule as "a vitally important step forward for drivers," citing the lack of protections for drivers such as paid sick leave and minimum wage rules. He noted also that continuing cuts to rideshare drivers' rates make the need for tips even more acute.

"The exploitation of ride-hail drivers must end and this is an important first step," he said in a statement. "We thank Chairman Joshi and the commission for holding Uber to the same standard as the rest of the industry on tipping and look forward to working together on further reforms to protect our city’s working drivers."

Uber is valued at $70 billion. In the past, the company has claimed that the median income for an UberX salary in New York City is $90,700. Those numbers do not seem to hold up to scrutiny.

A March survey by the Guild showed that 57 percent of drivers who responded made less than $50,000 a year, and 78 percent drove at least 30 hours a week. A spokeswoman for the group said she did not have access to the number of respondents, and we did not see a copy of the full survey. E-hail drivers often drive for multiple platforms, and incur an array of expenses that aren't factored into their take-home pay, making uniform salary measures tough to come by.

Guild member Luiny Tavares said that he drives for Uber as well as Lyft, and that through Lyft's tipping feature he almost always makes back the company's 25 percent cut of his fares.

Uber does have an automatic tipping option for its Uber Taxi service in Chicago, but it's fairly hidden, and drivers in other cities and on other Uber services have up to now been more or less out of luck. Even Chicago Uber Taxi riders get no prompt to tip and have no readily accessible way to tip for a given trip. From the beginning, Uber's promotional materials have touted its rates as more than making up for the lack of tips, but Tavares, the Guild driver, said that's not the case.

"Uber led drivers and passengers alike to believe that fares would match what was lost in gratuities," he said. "That’s not what happened. I find myself working longer hours to make up the lost pay."

An Uber spokesman wrote in a statement that the company "[looks] forward to reviewing" the proposal. He continued, "Uber is always striving to offer the best earning opportunity for drivers and we are constantly working to improve the driver experience. That’s why, in New York City, we partnered with the Machinists Union to make sure current and future Uber NYC drivers have a stronger voice and launched a series of new tools and support policies for drivers."

The Machinists Union-backed Guild is one of several competing efforts to organize e-hail workers, and is the group working most closely with Uber. In September, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 announced that 14,000 Lyft, Uber, and other e-hail drivers had signed union cards, but given the drivers' current classification as independent contractors, it's not clear how they'll get legal recognition. Another 2,000 drivers have signed cards in the intervening six and a half months, according to an Amalgamated spokesman.

The Guild has pledged not to try to formally unionize unless drivers' legal classification changes. Lawsuits are under way around the country seeking to do just that.

Speaking from the other side of the industry, at an April 6th TLC meeting a taxi medallion owner complained that he has seen his investment tank since the city has allowed rideshare companies relatively unfettered access to the city's streets: