Cab driver Douglas Schifter took his own life outside New York City Hall. He left a Facebook post blaming both government officials and ride share companies like Uber for his death.
Before he died, Schifter wrote a Facebook post explaining his frustrations, and accused the mayor and governor of “strong bias” towards Uber, a company which he described as a “known liar, cheat and thief.”
“I worked 100-120 consecutive hours almost every week for the past fourteen plus years,” he said in his post on Monday. “There are over 100,000 of us suffering daily now. It’s the new slavery.”
“I hope with the public sacrifice I make now that some attention to the plight of the drivers and the people will be done to save them and it will not have been in vain,” he wrote.
Schifter explained how the company’s huge number of “desperate drivers trying to feed their families” meant rates were set lower than operating costs which has forced “professionals like me out of business.”
He called out New York mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo for their role in the situation.
“They count their money and we are driven down into the streets we drive becoming homeless and hungry. I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead.”
A cab driver since the 1980s, Shifter found it increasingly difficult to make enough money. He ran into financial difficulties and suffered from depression. Shifter wrote articles about problems the industry was facing in Black Car News.
Schifter is the latest cab driver to die by suicide in recent months. Danilo Corporan Castillo took his own life in December after a New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission hearing threatened to revoke his license. He wrote a suicide note on the back of his TLC summons, the Spokesman-Review reports.
The gig economy is said to have affected New York cab drivers’ ability to earn. While cities had, in the past, regulated the number of licensed drivers allowed on the streets, “transportation network companies” (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft are able to circumvent these regulations and have flooded the market with cars.
Members of the Independent Drivers Guild gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday to hold a vigil in honor of Schifter. In a statement, the group said it is “pleading with the Taxi and Limousine Commission, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo and State elected officials to help us make [Schifter’s death] the last.”
“We understand that many of our licensees have been under tremendous pressure due to this onslaught of competition from app-dispatched services,” Meera Joshi of the Taxi and Limousine Commission said in response to Schifter’s death.
“The despair felt so deeply by Mr. Schifter has become a topic of daily debate and concern for us at the TLC, and while we lack the jurisdiction to limit the licensing of drivers or vehicles, we are tackling the issue of driver earnings protections this year.”