director of new york taxi workers alliance.
Recorded by Deepa Ranganathan
I’m Bhairavi Desai
In April 1998 Rudolph Giuliani, the mayor at the time, had announced a plan to implement 17 new rules against taxi drivers. These rules and regs would have increased fines for drivers by 300 to 600 percent, added much more control over drivers and would have really restricted drivers’ ability to maintain their licenses. Saeed ahmed and I, saeed was org of twa, we had goneo ut to houston st to shift change at Houston st, when day and night drivers meet up to exchange vehicle, had gone out to do outreach on Friday afternoon at 2nd and 2nd, and that day there was article out on daily news, front page articles basically slamming taxi drivers as being reckless and dangerous and rude, ******same old attacks the city had launched on drivers for years. Member after member after member walked up to us and said we have to strike, enough is enough, ********* we’re not reckless, we work 12 hour days, we make under min wage, no health care, 60 times more likely to be killed on the job than any other worker. Face exploitation on so many levels. And yet here’s mayor of city presenting drivers as if they’re criminals and not hardworking people who actually get victimized and exploited throughout their day.
2:49 and so drivers were just really fed up and people started walking up and saying gotta stirke, have to send message that we’re not going to take it ****** started to make phone calls, everyone really riled up, angry, fed up and sad at the same time that this is how their hard labor being e to rest of world. Org community had meeting that Sunday night. By that time we knew going to vote for strike, already prepared flyer, just had to decide on dates. Basically at meeting first we voted yes we want to organize strike, unanimous discussion.
3:55. 15 of us on our organizing committee were at the meeting. We had a debate. Industry had never had a strike under leasing, when lease drivers strike not only giving up income for day, still have to pay for lease, also 40,000 licensed drivers, so you not only have to organize active but also inactive have to make sure not going to go in and scab.
4:44 – majority are lease drivers, which means they pay to rent the vehicle and the medallion, the medallion is main capital, literally just a permit that allows you to used s yellow cab for commercial purposes. Majrity go to garage and pay a lease daily or weekly, paying on average 100 per day for the care rental and 30 a day for gas expenses. 80 percent of the drivers lease on weekly basis, also have to take care of parking for day. We had a long discussion – if we striek – can we stirke, given that a strike would mean not only are you forfeiting income, also forf lease paid that day, also take care of parking, all practical issues that really threaten drivers abilities to organize. What we felt was that there was a real fire out there, drivers really angry, level of consciousness from anger, unity only expression we had, only expression of anger powerful enough we could have ************
6:30 then we discussed which day appropriate for strike, didn’t want to take too much time, at that moment really angry, needed to literally strike while iron hot. Gave ourselves 10 days. That night, put date in flyer, started copying of flyer, people started to take it out, we finished up press release, list of demands, started to send it out to media. Within 2 days got phone calls from media, daily news printed small article, no body believed it, nobody picked up on it. **********
Then started to have thousands of flyers made 7:30 all money came out of pocket for all of us, no budget at the time. So we’d go into staples and kinkos and where else and print up literally 10,000 15,000 copies of flyers, and organizing committee would just come in anytime they finished, ran out of copies just come in. in beginning days, what org committees did, in day shift didn’t work, took cab to air port and just did airport fares. They’d stand there, give out flyers, when their turn to go on line, pick up fare, drop off fare, wherever fare was, then go off duty and go directly back to the airport. Then again routine would start. S o within a day the call just spread. 8:50. ****** had members spending money on own to copy, I just copied 200 flyers standing at corner of Houston and broadway, I’ll be here from 6 until my flyers run out ********** I’m standing on bridge where taxis get on, night drivers would do that, they’d finish their night shift by 5 am, park car, then go to bridge and hand out flyers for 2 three hours. I’m on clinton street, I’ms tanding here on this side. I’m handing out flyers. I’ve given out 200 toiday, going to give out 300 tomrorow, went to all their neighborhoods. Late at night they’d go near garages on streets on neighborhoods, put flyers on windshielf. So we just flooded entire industry with message that on may 13 1998, going out on strike, within a coupel of days we had a situation where drivers in manhattan stopped at a red light, honk horn, roll down window, hey broutehr do you know about striek? Totall grassroots movement, every worker became organizer, only reason successfu, c ame from hearts and souls of entire workforce. 11:05 ****************
Drivers were so angered by the rules, we all were because so offensive. Grouping 17 new rules all at once, saying we need to throw book at entire workforce, they’re so unruly that one new regulation is not enough, we need 17 (11:37) ********* new regulations all together. This in a book that already has over 50 regulations. And some of the regulations would say thigns like, if a receipt was hainging off the meter you would get a point. If you had five points for diff violations within 18 months, youwould lose license for 30 days. Drivers leasing medallion and paying for car, even if lost license for 30 days, not only lose income, also have to pya fopr lease, which is 1000 a week. ********* 12:00 The rules were just unbelieable, badi ally taking a workforce already on edge of poverty after working 60-70 hours, backbreaking hours, in what’s considered the most dangerous job in this city, and one of the most exhausting and unyealthy jobs in city, taking this group of vulnerable workers and yourre comrinializng them, painting them as reckless criminals who need to be contained rather than hardworking people that need to be rewarded.
13:11 – majority fot he fines and new rules were about while driver was standing still in cab, wasn’t so much about while car in motion, only one about car in motion, that one was saying if – so even all 17 rules were supposed to be about safety and making drivers safer motorists, only one about car in motion, and that rule said that when drivers got points on their dmv license, taxi and limo comm would count points toward tlc license and suspend drivers taxi license for dmv points., basically driver,s even though state dept of motor vehicles already has point program in place for all millions of motorists in ny state, tlc was asying even though other private motorists, all of them only have to deal with dmv rules, we want taxi drivers to also be held accountable by tlc. If you accumulated five points on dmv license within 18 months, within a year and a half, imagine how much time worker drives 70 hours a week puts in within 18 months. ******* 15:28 drivers, event hough working longer hours, being held acocuntable to a lower points threshold unlike any other gorup of commercial motorists. Pure discrimination.
In trucking industry it’s trucking companies that are resp, but in taxi industry, not taxi companies, it’s individual driver. Easy target. It’s not the corporation the city is taking on. … it’s the driver, directly, him or herself. Thyer’e mcuh more vulnerable to these kinds of regulations.
16:26 – by having new rules, city increasing fines by 300-600 percent, making way more money. Tlc is already only mayoral agency that makes own budget. By that I mean other city agnencies are allocated money by mayors office, but tlc makes enough money on its own to have its own budget … by increasing fines against driver and fees agianst driver, tlc was practically going to be doubling its budget. ******** Which makes giu look great, any mayor look great when time for election. Sot hey can say no, surplus in city budget, or can give tax breaks to rich which is what mayor bloomberg did after selling medallions. 17:30 so this is a very lucrative industry, and in taxi industry we always joke, when we look at a yellow cab we see yellow, when city looks at yeallow cab they see green. Drivers say they face colorism both from color of skin, and from color of taxi. ************
18:03 90 percent of taxi drivers are immigrants. 60 percent from south asia, a good 20 percent from caribbean, some haitians and jamaicans, another 15 per4cnet are from africa, mainly east ans west africa, eritrea, ethipioa, senegal, ivory coast, ghana, another 15 percent are from middle east, mainly from egypt, some fro m morocco, north africa. Then latinos ostly from south america, prim from colombia, some from central america, some from peru, a very diverse workforce. Also have since mid 1990’s, als have more eastern europeans coming in, primarily from former soviet block.
19:50 ******I have to tell you that by may, may 10th, we already knew we had a solid strike, I mean you know, uusally an orgaznier three days beofre a strike, you’re just sweating it out, praying to any unknown god out there that this will be successful. By 10th we already knew in every fiber of body that every driver was going out on strike on may 13th. And all we had to do was keep up the momentum, keep the nager going and hold the orgnaization together. I think by then I literally had not slep[t the entire week. Tehre were days I was in the office all day and all night, I would go home just to change and bathe and change clotes and come back to office. At most sleep 2, 3 hours, lit not more than that. When members could come in to pick up flyers, would bring me food, make sure still alive. Such an adrenaline rush, fact we knew going to be successful, all motivation we needed to be successful. ******** in those days didn’t need to sleep in order to dream, we were just dreaming wide awake because we knew on may 13 going to wake up to a scucesful strike, which means we were going to wake up to empty streest, and that’s exactly what happened.
21:45: I remember we had had, I rembemre being in office over night till like 3 am, agnd getting phone call from nbc, sayign wanted live interview at 6 a.m., remember going home, changing clothes coming back out, had an interview at penn station and there was not one cab in sight. ***********There wer ejust no taxis anywhere, I think there wer elots of drivers who woke up that morining watching the news and saying what are my brother sna d sisters doing? And the fact that they saw no cabs out there – we knew as long as 10 am no cabs out there, knew rest of day successful, people would be following news to see what was happening, night people were not goint to come out if they saw the day people held that strike together. **** 22:45
So it was really the day drivers that kept that momentum going. So it was just amazing, I mean the streets were totally empty, ***********there wer eno taxis out there, there were just linesa nd lines of people waiting fo ra cabm we just walked up and down the streets saying no not today, better off going into the subway, better take that bus. 23:14
Cause there were no cabs out there.
At that point in 1998, may 13, 1998 , 12, 187 active medallions on the roads. There were 12, 187 cabs who stayed off the roads on that day. Polic erported later on that there were at the most about 100 taxis that they had seen, but they found majority of them were actually undercover police, maybe 5 active drivers that day, number was so small you couldn’t really spot anybody. We have a picture of saeed, who is our main organizer that really held the strike togehtf for us as an organiztain, great pictures of saeed going to jfk taxi lots and standing there with arms wide open in totally empty space. Noramlly 2, 300 cabs out there, on that day not even one cab in that lot. ******* 24:32. There was just no cabs, all you saw were lines of passengers just hopeless waiting for something. But nothing happened. Drivers stayed together, they stayed the course and the strtike was just amazingly successful, not only did the active drivers hold on to their promises, but nobody scabbed. ********* 20,000 not active, they didn’t go into industry and work that day. It was amazing.
25:30 – *********so right after our interviews, we went tou our strike headquarters at a restaurant, night before we had decorated this space with streamers and posters and we had a poster of aga salim osman, who was a former driver and a former organizer, he was the lead organizer for us before I had started, and salim, you know, ********** may tehre be gods to bless his soul, he had passed away a few months before strike , but we knew salim was smiling down on us, poster paying respect to salim and to all drivers kille don job or who had died from pure exhaustion or heart attacks or health gone back because of conditions in industry. Wall dedicated to them, other space were of posters of that day and congratulating the drivers. *********Each hour more and more drivers came into strike headquarters. Also stood outside in front of hq with posters, bullhorns screaming, rallying celebration that day. T her ewere 100’s of reporters coming in and out. 27:16 – it was really amazing. There was this homeless brother, he had a cart, had soda cans, I know what you guys go through, I know how many of you guys help ous out on street, he donated all his cans of soda to all of us. It was beatufiul. Hard not to get choked up when you talk about it. *********I swear to you, as someone who grew up poor, as someone who’s seen working people struggle throughout life, it was such a beautiful event to see a group of working people who had such amazing courage and imagine and strength of will, right, that even know this is industry where we don’t have closed shop union, don’t have luxury of every worker coming in is by law introduced to union, we don’t have anyt of that, have to go one by tone to sign everybody up. We had no money at time, we paid for copying and phone calls and rental of the hall, we paid for 28:53 everything out of pocket, the 15 or 20 of us paid out of pocket, and general members who got swept up in momentum paid for their photocopying out of pocket,********** we didn’t have resoucrese to call every driver and say today’s the strike, make sure don’t go out today, we didn’t have optpe to go into every single neighborhood. Not a factory, couldn’Ts stand in front of one building to have a picket line. We had picket lines that day in front of airport, at key garages, but no way to cover every single area of city, just because industry is so big and so dispersed. We had to depend on the loyalty of drivers and their ability to hope and have faith in each other. Just such a beautiful reflection of the courage of people, the abilities of working people, and power of working people. 30:19 *************
Later on that night, we were at strike hq for most of day, until 9 at night, then we went over to our office space, and about 200 of us at strike hq, had food, had informal discussion, okay how do we keep this going, made a flyer to thank drivers for participating, handed flyer out and told people to be on guard until next decision was made.
31:09 *********day before strike, tlc chairwoman was on tv saying don’t worry, it’s just a few bad appels, we think couple hundred drivers might strike, they’re the bad guys, when we passed rules they’re afraid of losing licenses, began to demonize people who would be striking. She woke up that morning and it was a full-fledged strike. She was no longer doing the press work, it was at point we stepped in and started to do press work directly. Ny1 started to run, 24 hour story, lead story was strike and images of empty street, had several press conferences throughout day, they would run stories of our quotes and quotes by fiu, his take was to basically make us forget our power, forget the impact of that day. *********** Financially the city took a hit of something like 6 billion from that day, airlines, theatre district, restaurants, hotels, financial sector, everybody was affected, business was not as usual in the heart of capital.
32:44 giu’s tactic was if economically objectively there is nothing he could do to underplya the effect of that strike, so then his tactic was to socially underplay the effect os trike, he told ny’er it was nice to have empty streets, fun to go walking, fun to ride our bicycles and do this and that. ******** but there was an enormous outpour of public support for us, people started calling, talk radio started calling, newspapers, tv channels, saying what’s the mayor doing, we don’t want another strike, he needs to sti down at table, ny1 was showing politiciians, borough presidents. Even state politicians were saying mayor needs to sit down and talk. T her ewer eocmmunity leaders who said this is clearly a racist attack, the mayor is attackig a workforce predominantly people of color, refusing to sit at table with them, stat at table with workforces that were prodominantly white workers.
34:22 he faced enormous opposition and criticism. And you know I’m proud to say that in 8 years of fiu[‘s reign in nyc, we were only workforce that struck directly against his policy. A fte rour striek, other workforces started. **********Students from cuny said we want to do what taxi workers did. Street vendors said we want to do what taxi workers did. And you had different segments of socity resisting, saying taxi workers who struck on may 13 were both heroes and symbol fo resistance against giuliani.
35:11 its’ true that on may 14, of course giu had to underplay imact of strike, he didn’t cal lus to table, he ddin’t take away proposal. He upped the ante. Thiswas a battle, our troops had thrown first punch, now he punched back. But success was we built opposition against his policy, we built support for our camp, we cahnge policitically way taxi drivers viewed by world. Drivers no longer seen as individual warriors out on the streets, they were seen as organized workforce with a political consciousnes and political vision and aiblity to put vision into play, we were seen as agents of cahgne and not victims or victimiazers. The gain of that strike, on thye public realm , we chagned perception of drivers, created political power. Within taxi worfrce we showed rivers can be organized. We built up strength and hopes fo workforce itslef, really for us most improtant gain. ***********
*******Within days of that strike, india nad pakistan, two noatiosn wehre majority of drivers from, were head to head in nuclear matchup, both had tested nuclear bomb, great conflict and friction between two countries. But what our strike showed was the power of working people 37:27 to build unity. That while the militaries of the two governments and the elite of the two governments may have a need for division, the majaority of working people and poor have a need for unity, in our strength have ability to vercome any divisivness that a givernment creating among people *************
38:00 was there any division before?
I remember when I first started organizing in 1996, drivers would always talk about fact that people from so many different cuntries, makes it more difficult to be organized, tensions between india and pak drivers, I think there still are ******** these tensions are historically rooted, partiuclarly immigrants are known for having a great allegiance to home country, certain level of nat pride is how people stay attached to country they left, more nationalist than people living on that land. And drivers werent any different, are not any different. And so I think among indian and pakistani drivers there was the tenion of countries that have been at war for over 50 eyars, and then tension of pak and bangla drivers who just 30 odd years earlier had ha liberation war, and genration that drivers represent, generations that either participated in awar of 1972 or had family members who participated, particularly for bangaldeshis because it was a war on their soil. Mass liberation movement. Almost every Bengal knew somebody who participated in tat moveoment. T herefore expeireinced brutality of Pakistani army, infamous brutality. Among pakistanis and indians, on one hand it’s mostly Punjabis, common language and common cltuer, that has helped bridge some of the tensions. On toher hand, national differences, in those moments of nuclear bombs being teste dnad each government and military calling for utmost nationalism of people at that moment tension being fuled by what happening back home. ************** 40:41 but I think drivers recognize that, they live and work in this country. And the strike was going to directly, effectively improves lives in country, matter of idgnity in country, able to bridge those tensions and resolve some tensions at least for moment for sake of unity.
41:10 – *********I think because the strik ebecame such a grassroots organizing movement was what you would see at airports, you would see drivers approaching other drivers not of own ethnic background. If you went before, you would noramlly see groups of friends who tend to be people of same etnicity nationality or langauge group, standing together and talking and not approaching each other. Drivers part of msaller ethnic groups, pureto rcians, parts of latin american, might be standing alone on their own, they’re looking fo th eother individual standing out there on their own. ********What happened in strike organizing moment was people walked across those boundaries and into each other’s spaces. For that moment everybody was just a driver. It was solidairty on a pure, working class basis. **********The ethnic tensions or familiarities or nervousness about approcahing someone who ight not speak your langauge, or might seem foreign to you, didn’t matter because for that moment everyone was a driver, that was all that mattered. So people approached each other at the airports, at the gas station, at the garage, or at the shift change on the street or at the red light, anytime they saw another yellow cab driver, they saw a potential organizer. ******** They saw a brother and sisster, didn’t see a quote unquote foreigner. People were able to overcome I think whatever hesitancy or tensions that existed for that moment of organizing. 43:36
We had seocnd and third strikes because we hadn’t met our goal yet. Our goal was to get the city to remove the 17 point program. ********* city was going to have public vote on may 28, – secon dstrike really took place because after our may 13 strike, an organization that was really run by owners announced a motorcade. Another organization that was really run by medallion owners, funded by a garage owner, indiviaul owners who owned two or three medallions but didn’t own a company, they were this org. primialry indian sikh drivers. ************They were planning to hold a motorcade, we went in for meeting and we said giu going to come down really hard on a motorcade, going to seize vehicle. He’d already announced that. We did not want to back down. 45:00 right. We didn’t want to look like giving into Giuliani but we also didn’t want ot put drivers in danger. Our solution was just have another strike. Just stay off the streets. That itself is going to have a bigger impact and giu can’t touch you in that moment, and so the owners refused to cooperate, said we’re going to go ahead with motorcade. What we did was we organized strike that day. Was fairly successful, papers reported 70 poercent participated. By any labor standard, that’s very successful strike. But because not over 95 percnt of may 13, looked like less successful strike.
46:05 what happened was, we were having a press conference and days before the motorcade ************there was going to be a press conference at city hall, we had announced it for 1 pm, we get down to city hall, before we get down there, I get phone call from reporter saying what’s this other press conference at 12:30? Did you guys move your press conference? I said no, still going down at one, don’t’ know about other one at 12:30. We get down to city hal, media pcking up their things. Medallion owners, Giuliani had gottne some medallion owners and some people saying they represent taxi drivers, had come together, mostly all south Asians had come together to say mayor is wise and kind, he deserves olive branch and not a strike. They said the strike was off. And that we, the taxi workers alliance, we were not relavent, improtant, just dind’t matter. Media knew us, we started to talk to some reportesr, there were two of us, biju and I had gone down there, we got separated, biju ended up talking tos ome of the people who we kenw from that organization, we had just had meeting with them a few days beforehand, like what the hell is going on here. ***************I ended up dealing with media, leadership of that group ended up just surrounding me in a circle, and would not let ht media get to me, they’re pushing and shoving me, I’m surrounded by, I’m 5’2’’, I weighed 100 pounds at time, surrounding by guys over five fett ten or eleven, ment in thirties and forties, I was 25 at the time. 48:24 I’m surrounded by all of them, they’re just pushign and shoving me in circle. Some reporters managed to get microphone in this space, so all you heard on 1010 wins was me yelling the strike is not off, it’s not up to you, strike is on, on, all of them trying to drown out my voce. Whiole drama got played out for world over airwaves, drivers heard it, realized division had starte,d **********giu had put plants into our organiztion to divide us.
This is before second strike, driver sar e listening, hear everything being played out, called for emergency meeting, that night called fo rit, had over 500 drivers sign in at that meeting. *********** Mind you there was – like at 6 pm we announced meeting, by 1 a.m. had 500 people at the door, didn’t have space for meeting, so we broke up, had 200 people one meeting, as they emptied out had nother 200 go in, I literally climbed on top of taxi cab had meeting on street at 3 am, spread the word, strike is not off, here’s what happened, here’s why have to keep up momentum, many drivers part of other group, owners group went back in there and confronted that group to say why trying to break up our unity?
Leadership was forced to call back our action. This was such a grassroots movement. 1:47 I mean drivers they claled the shots at every moment.
2:00 leadership of owners group continued with motorcade, they had motorcade and we had our strike. ********* On the day of motorcade, Giu brought down the national guard, he closed up queens, so taxi cabs could not leave queens empty, so fi you were on your own, going toward motorcade, couldn’t get out of queens had to go to airport and pick up fare. Cops were there, some vehicles seized and towed, what drivers ended up doing, got out, left cabs there and marched over bridge toward city hall, at city hall 100’s of people out on streets having rally. Just closed down streets at that point. Our role, we told our members to participate, through that we mobilized members in that action, this was strike 2, may 21.
4:10 – giuliani had meting with owners, may 14 he called in every owner and cursed them out for not being able to destroy our striek on may 13, other group called united, they were funded by garage owner and led by individuals who owned many medallions. So their interest was really as owners, as corporate owners, not as drivers, and it’s the drivers going to be affected by the 17 rules, not those gusy. ********So giu had met with them basically to confuse the drivesr over our actions, and so they started putting out flyers with our name on it that said things like the real deal the strike is off, strated to confused drivers, dishearten drivers, on may 13 you had enormous historic unity. But look, day after, you’re back to your old ways. Your unity is broken up again and you’re divided as usual. Role was dishearten workesr, confuse workers, show public we were not ablet o show unity. 5:46
They called the motorcade because some of the members were owner drivers, owned medallion and drove, pushign for action against giu, majority of leadership not drivers, owned multiple medallions, they called off action, and other owner drivers did not have enuf politicla voice in that organization. Number of our members went into their org and held them accountable tod rivers, put motorcade back on schedule, if didn’t have motorcade going to lose support, without supprot of drivers, giu never have talked to them. ???????
7:00 after may 21, still discussion within the public and the media and all about our demands, our striek, still buildng up more support for our cause. On may 27th had another strike, on may 28 was the day fo the public hearing the tlc public hearing where they voted, on that day mobilized driver – public hearing room, we paicked it, just hundreds of people there. ********* outside on the streets there were 100s and 100s of people showing their support for us. At that public hearing, commissioners, tlc was going to be voting on rules and regs. Rumor had it that mayor showed up at public hearing, he came just otmake sure vote went his way, sat in back room, when took lunch break told commissioners to vote his way. Many commissioners started to say that some wer eout of country when rules introduced, that basically not been fors trike, never would hav thought twice about vote. Created divisoin among commssion. Even though still went forward, voted on 15 of the rules, and tow of the rules the – one, the point program we were most concerned about and another one the owners wer eocnferned about, that one said had to post higher insurance bond on medallion, didn’t want to give up that money, compromise tlc did not vote on those two rules, other 15 went into effect. But we were ble to get time and notification to drivers before rules went into effect, slowed down process of rulemaking and rules being implemented. *************
9:30 after that, rules went into effect, for next few months spent time informing drivers of what the rules were and to build the organizaiton, to keep momentum going, and at same time went to city council, oversees taxi and limo comission, asked them to pass moaratorium on 15 rules that were passed. We said stop implementation of rules immediately, have real public hearings to discuss rules, ***********what we ended up getitng was chagne in osme rules, ended up gettting city to stop practuice of double ticketing. Under giu, anytime police officer stop taxi, give one ticket returnable to dmv courts, and one ticket returnable to tlc courts. So for the same offense, you’re getting two diff penalties. Part of our legislation went to city coucnil over was stop double ticketing. Also got point program changed, went from 5 points in 18 months to 6 points in 15 months. And we were able to get point reduction programs. And we said it would not be retroactive, because tlc’s plan was minute rule passed, going ot look at drivers record, whoever had 5points within 15 mos going to lose license without nay notice or warning, able to get legislation passed that sad this wa sa rule to the future. … had to give everybody an opportunity to take a point reduction clas to bacissicalky get back down to zero. ** 11:54
I think strike was greatly successful, first of all talkinga bout indutry of – leasing system went into effect in 1980, for 18 years drivers were being hammered away by this sysmte. What our strike did was it said to industyr, pols that regulate industry, to public that take taxis, that taxi drivers were organized, chagned poltical positioning of rivers. For first time politicians even interested in what drivers had to say. *********** 12:52 this is never happened in this industyr. The taxi and limo commission knew never again could they try to pass rules and regs without notification to the drivers, without input of drivers, it was never again going to be business as usual when it came down to the exploitation of taxi drivers by the owners or the city, that was a tremendous victory. Old saying sacrifice today for better tomorrow. Purposes of strike were to affect directly the 17 new rules ****** even though we were not able to do that, years later, because eof that strike we were able to get a fare raise for drivers with majority of men going to drivers in first time in history. Able to stop double ticketing practice. Able to stop tlc admin procedures, long lines when drivers would go into to renew licenses every eyar, thousands of drivers would be awaitngin on line outside, come rain, snow, bitter heat, waiting outside. We went in, and on first day, able to stop it and change that policy. After 9/11 we were able to win disaster assistance for taxi drivers, even though the mayor had told fed govt drivers dhould not be eligible for 9-11 assistance, even though majority of fares came from 14ht stretet and below, mayor said they can work elsewhere. Drivers having debts of like 10-15,000 within first 3, 4 months of 9-11 because business totally devastated and still had to pay lease payments. We were able to get fed goverment to change policy and give disaster assistance to drivers. Gave us a better tomorrow ******** in that moment changed how dirvers being viewed, changed imbalance of power in industry. For first time drivers seen as powerful agents, in workforce where 90 percent are immigrants. In industry where workers not considered employees and not protected by any of basic labor laws, not given right to unionization or collective bargaining agreement, even wit all obstacles drivers face, through that strike we were able to change tides and become agents of power.
Twa – the16:36 NYTWA is a union for yellow cab drivers, we work on campaigns to change the conditions, currently fighting for a health care fund for all drivers and open and fair tlc courts, also provide benefits for drivers, rep for courts, legal advocacy for individuals in cases of emergency, make sure get workers comp when been in accident, or DA’s office prosecutes properly, or make sure wen garage owner giving driver had time, we go in and change those conditions, work on larger level to change imbalance of power and loss attend to needs to individuals in industry.
17:42 – it was really like in the 1990s that the taxi workforce started to become predominantly of color, first Indian drivers mostly Sikhs, then Pakistanis and Bangladeshi part in mid 90’s when dv lottery opened up, immigration lottery opened up to bangs and had real large influx into NYC, many people entered taxi industry, one reason is because I think immigrants in a way, almost start to dominate workforces same way start to dominate neighborhoods, see small group of people already there, attract people of that community o move into neighborhood.
19:04 taxi industry is very accessible industry for south Asians. First of all, most south Asians grow up learning to speak English for most part, comfort in a public profession, people also – most Pakistanis for example come from Guj, already familiar with this as job opportunity for them. Also recruitment, owners in industry do recruitment of spec communities, they’ll place ads in Urdu and Hindi and Punjabi papers, both here and back home, to recruit people and entice them into the industry.
20:13 – what would united say? I’m sure – first of all, united isn’t around anymore, kind of self-destructed year after strike. But all been documented through the media, through drivers who witnessed everything, we had allies, politicians who came out to that press conference in may who witnessed everything. Part of history of that time period. Only thing united can really object to is what we see as their intentions. But even on that end, the fact that you got up there and said Giu deserves an olive branch, what more can be said in your defense of your intentions?
003 3:00 silence.