All told, New York City has boiled into a brimming indictment of the gig economy and the modern era of smartphone taxi-hailing. An already taxing job has been made more difficult—fatally difficult—for drivers, all in the name of not getting in the way of a new technology that has only ever made its executives wealthy and failed to realize its populist fantasies.

Hodges, the Colgate professor, knows firsthand how difficult driving can be day in and day out. After five years, he said it left him feeling broken.

“I found myself turning in earlier, earning less, just because driving 150-160 miles a day on city streets for 12 hours is really, really tiring,” he said.

NYC’s drivers somehow made it all work for decades, until Uber and Lyft arrived, and city officials let the ride-hailing services roam freely. The net result? An already bruising job for drivers became financially inviable, right in the heart of cab driving in America.

With that in mind, Hodges said that New York illustrates why workers need protection and to have the support to sustain a livable wage. Under the gig economy model, which leans more than heavily on the efforts of part-time drivers, that can’t be achieved if some only head out when they have a spare hour or two to ferry passengers.

“It’s in the public interest to have a dedicated workforce out there,” Hodges said. “It really is.”

Desai said policymakers waited too long and need to take immediate action.

“We accept poverty and death as collateral damage to our economy,” she said. “We just accept it. It’s hard to accept that. It’s really hard when you feel like part of your job is to convince people in power that they should care about another group of human beings. “