By Nathan Duke
More than 25 Flushing community activists protested outside Councilman John Liu’s (D-Flushing) office last week and called on him to meet with limousine and taxi drivers who allege that a Chinese transportation company owner in the neighborhood has regularly exploited and attacked his workers.
Members of the group Justice Will Be Served held signs reading “John Liu: Don’t You Dare Ignore the Needs of Immigrant Workers” and “Stop Gang Violence in Our Community” outside Liu’s office on 38th Avenue in Flushing Friday. The workers complained that the councilman had not met with them despite repeated requests to do so.
Many of them formerly worked for Flushing’s Tony Luo, the owner of several companies that operate taxis, limousines and commuter buses. Former drivers have accused Luo of using “gang tactics” by threatening, assaulting and extorting drivers he employs.
According to court papers, Luo is currently facing charges of misdemeanor assault for allegedly attacking an employee, Guoqiang He, with a handheld radio.
“In the eight years John Liu has been a councilman and the chairman of the Transportation Committee, there has been a spread of crime, sweatshops and victimization of immigrants in our community,” said Josephine Lee, one of the protest’s organizers. “Tony Luo uses undocumented workers, which is harmful to drivers, passengers and the community’s public safety.”
Neither Liu nor Luo’s attorney could be reached for comment.
Several of Luo’s former drivers, who would not give their full names, accused Luo of a variety of tactics, such as forcing them to pay a weekly “protection fee” in order to continue working for the company.
“When we joined the company, we were asked to buy luxury cars and then had to pay weekly fees,” said a former worker who called himself “Mr. Kwok.”
Guoqiang He said he attempted to contact Liu after he was allegedly assaulted by Luo, but was never able to meet with the councilman.
“The reason why Tony Luo can monopolize the shuttle bus industry is because he has the backup of politicians,” he said.
Workers said they have contacted the Queens district attorney, the U.S. attorney and Liu’s office about the alleged attacks, but no one has responded.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.