Over the past four months, four New York City taxi drivers have been pushed to suicide in an industry that is becoming increasingly dangerous. In response to the recent deaths, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance has launched a campaign for regulation and released its own proposal to re-establish driving as a viable occupation.
On April 25, the Taxi Workers Alliance demanded that city leaders address the lethal impact of lax regulation of app-based, ride-hailing services at a press conference in front of City Hall. The conference preceded a hearing on April 30 concerning regulations for app-based companies.
The business model offered by Uber and Lyft, they argued, has been instrumental in lowering labor standards so that drivers from across the taxi industry — whether they are behind the wheels of yellow cabs, green cabs or black cars — are literally working themselves to death. Ride-hailing companies have gained notoriety for being able to put an unlimited number of vehicles on the road, underpaying drivers and even going so far as to not recognize them as employees. This has created a “race to the bottom” with severe repercussions.
Before shooting himself at the gates of City Hall Park, Douglas Schifter called the industry in which he’d been working for decades “the new slavery.” Schifter wrote this in a suicide letter he posted on Facebook and blamed the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the Mayor’s Office and Gov. Andrew Cuomo for promoting deregulation without regard for the impact on workers.
Joined by fellow founders Biju Matthews, Beresford Simmons and Taxi Workers Alliance organizer Mohammed Tipu Sultan, the NYTWA’s executive director Bhairavi Desai addressed the assembled drivers and members of the press. “No matter what Uber wants to claim,” she said, “this is a struggle about the workers trying to defend a full-time job in a gig economy that offers nothing but poverty pay.” Founded in 1998, the alliance currently represents over 50,000 drivers throughout the city…