By Naeisha Rose
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance rallied at City Hall last week, pushing for a policy that would solve the crisis of poverty that they said has led to the suicides of four drivers in four months.
The alliance said its plan would stop the financial emergency hurting yellow taxi, green cab, black car, livery and app-dispatched drivers. Following a March protest, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Cuomo, and Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) acknowledged that it was time to look into capping the number of for-hire vehicles that has led to too many drivers flooding the streets. While NYTWA said capping vehicles is an important first step, it is still not enough to solve the crisis FIX drivers are facing. They believe more has to be done to protect full-time incomes and create fair labor standards across the industry.
Earlier in the day, drivers met with individual City Council members to educate them about the policy proposals, which include capping the number of vehicles clogging New York City streets, setting the yellow and green cab meter as the minimum fare rate across the industry in order to establish a wage floor, raising fare rates so drivers have a chance at economic recovery after five years of straight losses and establishing labor standards like caps on driver expenses to end predatory lending in this new market, which has been unregulated for five years and is setting all drivers off on a race to the bottom.
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the alliance, said this crisis is a result of political failure to regulate Wall Street. “We are demanding immediate changes in legislation and Taxi and Limousine Commission rules to protect NYC’s professional drivers from all sectors,” he said. “Our focus is on protecting full-time work and creating livable incomes. Any changes must be driven by labor standards and the interests of workers not a corporate sector given free reign for five years to enrich themselves from the sweat of drivers and disruption on city streets.”
Four city drivers committed suicide in four months: Queens resident Nicanor Ochisor, a yellow taxi owner-driver; Danilo Corporan Castillo and Alfredo Perez, Bronx livery drivers; and Douglas Schifter, a black car driver.
Ochisor, 64, was the most recent driver pushed to suicide. The father of one emigrated from Romania in 1986 and began working as a yellow taxi cab driver in 1989, when he purchased a NYC taxicab medallion.
According to his GoFundMe page, Ochisor started to help pay off his medallion so his wife can retire, he had hoped to use the medallion to finance their home and retirement, but over the past five years the taxi industry weakened and his income fell nearly 30 percent, making it nearly impossible for him to keep up with operating expenses, let alone medical bills or time to rest. Ochisor’s medallion value dropped from $1 million to $180,000, and he struggled to keep up with cab expenses, with no retirement or relief in sight.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart