Kevin’s disc – Track 1:
Sounds of traffic moving through wet streets, buses with brakes squealing, people talking, sounds kind of like static with all the train, :59 recognizable car sound, honking, brakes squealing. People start yelling 1:23
2:00 big bus passing. Good sound. 2:30 big car swiffing through water sounds. Brakes, honking, backing up 2:48. 3:26 big honk, sound of engine throgh water, car’s 3:35 going by, very good sound!
4:17 sound of door shutting. Windshield wipers going.
Track 2: My name is Kevin Michael Fitzpatrick, and I’ve been driving a cab off and on for over 30 years.
(some mic handling noise here)
1:07 In 1971 I drove during the summers, it was a college job, you drove during the summers. At that time most of the cab driers would have been native born americans, lot of african americans, pr’s, lot of white americans. That would have been the ethnic comp of city around 1971. started changing in 80s and 90s. … ******** this is a job you can’t export so you bring the sweatshop here. ******* a lot of this had to do with so called reforms in the industry. Deregulation normally means cutting wages and benefits. This happened continuously in this industry. 30 years ago people worked less hours, made more money, now hours are longer and in real tersm wages are probably downa bout thirty percent. ***********
2:35 you realize it on certain levels. You realize on theoretical levels and emotional levels. Let’s say with south asians they started comign into industry in middle 80’s, always been a lot of haitians, before that dominicans, around middle late 80’s south asians started coming in. it’s something that doesn’t come like one day, all native (phone ringing)
3:42 – voice message of new york taxi alliance. (a little patchy)
4:53 – it takes some time. Yeah basically in the late 80s too you had a general cahnge in the population in new york, it’s a lot less native born americans and lot more immigrants. This industry tends to be mostly south asians. For example you see in delis all the counterhelp is mexican, even 10 years ago mexican help fairly rare in new york.
6:00 one thing in a cab if you do’t involve dyourself you tend to be very isolated. Few people you talk to and that’s it. One of the problems in the taxi industry with drivers is you see drivers as competition, one reason so hard to organize. This********* goes back to when it was all americans too. In new york – new york has always been fairly diverse so you know, so people instead of speaking spanish, speak urdu, in one sense, big deal. ***********( elevator bell)
6:55 when I first started working I would start at 7, finish at 3, 8 hours punch out. ******* now a real shift is 11 hours, when work days start at 5:30 finish 4:30. the pay in real terms probably gone down. When I first started you had a pension, health insurance, that’s gone downt he tube. Plus besides the cash value ************ wasn’t much of a pension but it was a pension. Back then the job was unionized, local 306 of seiu, back then you had a much more traditional type of organization, drivers worked on commission, worked out of garages, 75-80 percent of drivers. Now traditional fleets down to 20 percent, and all the fleets lease. Most people now lease from brokers ********, what’s called horse hiring, you rent a cab, roughly equivalent to tenant farming or sharecropping. Basically you do away with the employee employer contract status, people become independent contractors, try to tell you you’re s amell businessman. ********** if you’re a sharecropper you’re a small businessman too, although back then wouldn’t have put so much icing on a pile of shit then. ***********
9:30 now the story the bosses give us is the miracle of immigrants striving, ever upward. Maybe, probably not. Mostly it’s exploitation. *********** this has always been a rather sleazy industry, goes right back to 20’s when run by gangsters. Used taxis to move their liquor, cash business and you could bury the money in the taxi receipts. ******** it’s always been run like a sweatshop or slum lords, take a smuch as you can get out of industyr without putting anything into it.
10:30 all the fleets now, they lease cabs like the brokers do. What happens is now brokers have various deals, some is you lease cabs, some is you buy the car and lease the medallion. Basically the idea is to privitize the profits and socialize the risks. ********** let’s say you lease cab for 105 dollars a shift. If a slow day you’ll end up paying money for the cab, work 12 hours and wind up giving boss 20 dollars. ********* Guys get talked into bogus contract, sometimes sub minimum wages job and you can’t even quit, broker takes you to court, tlc will enforce the judgement, will suspend hack license.
12:00 you reach points as you get older, your ability to switch jobs becomes smaller and smaller.
12:15 in 1998, giuliani, the mayor of new york at that time, proposed all these changes in taxi regulation. What it was was increasing the fine level 4-500 percent, this was basically immigrant bashing. What it boiled down to was you had to make sure white women would feel safe driving with asian immigrants. ******** (weird) if you wanted to have safety rules, maybe make the police put safeties on the guns.
13:10 drivers now are much safer than they were 20 years ago. There are less scams being pulled on customers. ******* this was basically, this man, giuliani is a neofascist, and if you’re a neofascist you need the other, this was part of his program. ******* he’s going to keep them under control.
14:00 I live in east new york which is mostly black and hispanic neighborhood, you get lousy services. We were the last neighborhood to get cable tv and the first neighborhood to get water meters put in. example of your political power. ****** I’m realistic.
14:45 – basically pandering to his base, his political base, white conservative types, and yuppie types, complaining about taxis are so expensive, I had to wait 20 minutes for a taxi in the rain. I wouldn’t wait 20 minutes for acab, I’d go to next block and take a subway, this is logic. ***** everybody has a storya bout crazy cab driver, even cab drivers have stories about cab drivers. It’s perception, cab driers driver crazily, they’re visible and theyr’e a non white pop. ****************** good quote!
15:51 everybody loses it. Everybody has a story bout a crazy cop. Everybody can – people tell you stories about crazy lawyers, crazy teachers. In any group you’re gogin to find a couple of crazy people. That’s what people remember. People don’t’ remember – most interreactions with cabdrivers and passengers are fairly neutral, not particularly friendly or nasty, go from point a to point b, say thanks a lot and go on to something else. You always remember the nut. ************* it’s the same thing in anything.
16:50 – it’s how he got elected. He got elected on people’s resentments. Nowadays – in america always been blacks, now it’s immigrants, oh they’re taking our jobs, different customs, food smells. The usual.
17:24 they decided on a strike on may 13, 1998. before that there’d been – the old union collapsed in 1996, local 3036. it had become a corpse. ********* the union had agreed to leasing in 1985, at that point, if driviers are independent contractors, union should have dissolved. As opposed to commission, commission you’re considered an employee. Get regular paycheck, taxes taken out and all that. *********** the value of medallion when leasing started was 28,000, now 360,000, give you an idea of the profits they made on this.
18:40 with leasing they privatize the profits. The owner would make, let’s say a bad day, he would make 105 a day for the shift, driver might take home 20, driver might not take home anything.
19:11 for like 60 years there was a set number. In 1996, under giuliani issued four new ones, bloomberg has issued 6 new ones. Total was 11,787 for like 55 years. Went up to 12,187. when medallions first issued, didn’t have livery cabs or black car groups, lot more need of cabs now. Drivers, most yellow cab drivers would not support issue of new medallions, see this as a way of protecting themselves.
20:11 a lot of the fleets actually go back to the 20’s and 30’s. there’s a group called the met board of trade, all the old line fleets, lot of them go back to 1930’s. they were originally run by gangsters. You have a real problem runninig a business when you can’t count to ten using your toes. Mafia are really stupid, guys become mafioso because too laszy and dumb to do a real job, couldn’t run it so had associates run it for them. Had the sworn soldiers and then business associates. These guys were associates of the mob, around for 40-50 years.
21:28 until 1971, police dept used to run taxi reg, in 1971, set up taxi and limo commission. (PHONE RANG, RUINED THIS SENTENCE)
22:29 this was set up under mayor lindsey. Official story was crime was bad in 1971, wanted to take cops out of regulating cabs and fight crime, had a taxi squad, like 100 guys reaching retirement, too fat to fight crime so put them regulating taxis. It wa s areally payoff for queens demo organization for supporting him in reelection bid. I don’t know if you’ve ever dealth with queens democratic organization but make sure you keep your wallet well secured, it’s a very corruption prone organization.
23:23 – firs thead was michale lazar, he ended up going to jail, became a quote unquote developer on 42nd street. This was a payofff. Once you get the tlc, leasing starts really. ***** pd for various reasons kept it, we do it this way. And in 1973, a fleet was sold, and taxis have always been divided into groups of two, (phone)
TRACK 3 – mini fleets, they did this for insurance purpses to limit liability (truck noise) where worse case all they could lose was two medallions. They have 150,000 scams to avoid paying anything. On the other hand you dent one of their cabs and they’re going to bill you for thousands of dollars, typical sleazeball businessmen.
:50 they began leasing the cabs to the drivers, I blame a lot on the old union, didn’t go after them hamer and tong but they didn’t. we know guys active in the old union and they had a rank and file caucus there, and I remember I was talking to a guy from it and he said theyd ecided they were going to stop the practice. One fleet sells out and the union did nothing. He said how come not doing anything? Union management says oh well, he was a nice guy, wehther paid off I don’t know. You don’t need a union to sell out your interests. You can do that on your own. ********
2”00 it was spontaneous basically. E veryboyd was angry. Everyboyd was angry, scared, and they made it much easier for you to lose your license so everybody decided to fight back. I figured well, let me go check this out. I n this industry you have a tendency – owners try to create false community of interest with drivers, let’s do this together. Actuially it means let drivers do work and let us collect the money, most people are suspciiosu of organizations, they take you rmoney they do nothing *********** the old unioh left a very bad taste in mouth, paying 3 dollars a shift and money was going into a pension fund you could never collect from, only people hired before 1995. let’s say 25 shifts, paying 75 dolalrs a month , lot of union dues for union that gave you nothing. *****
:30 strike head quarters on 8th ave by port authority. I walked over to see what it was like. I believed I could trust these people. The politics seemed fairly good. You can usually tell. These people looked pretty radical. You can usually trust these type of people. ************ that was in 98, may 1998. that was the day of the strike.
1:17 strike like that, not a massive picket line, most peopl ejust stay home. Yeah, they – people stay home and they do their business and everything, but the fact is I got off at port authority I diddn’t see a yellow cab on 8th ave, this meant strieks effective. I f we got 50-60, effective, wound up getting 94. guys just print up leaflets and hand them out themsleves, really the way it should be done. ************ at that time taxi workesr was really more the lens than a mass organization, not that many people know about it. *****
2:23 I was going to check it out, if I thought these people were clowns or the normal industry nonsense, I would have said have a ncie day. **********
2:57 there had been strikes before not in my time. One of the things that were big, drivers used to be big on were these big massive caravans. Normally protesting things like crimes against cab drivers, couple thousand cabs and everyone honking horns, block traffic. They had done it in the 60’s when they first got th eunion. ********Normally for a long time it had been like the taxi caravan, the big drive by.
3:56 giuliani and his henchperson mcgrath mckechnie, they figured out well there’s going to be no strike, figured a couple hundred people would take off and that would be it. 94 percent ,giu was in a rage, this was a man who doesn’t like people talking back to him. And I mean he – he was talking about, going to make every Tuesday cab free day, wanted to bring liveries, let them make street pickups. **********
Man is a very vicious animal, man who remembers slights. He came down on us for the next three, four years.
4:52 two weeks later another job action, part of it included another taxi caravan. Included big driveby, have to have a place to organize and assemble, did a preemptive strike, went to long island city, put no standing signs, no body could get into, nobody had a chance to organize. He banned empty cabs from coming into the city for about 7 hours, totally illegal. But that never matter much to our own little mussolini. ******** he figured if don’t let the cabs in … lawsuit going on still. He didn’t have the right to do it.
5:55 republican scum like giuliani ignore court orders. Guys lost their shift in a cab wanted financial compensation, that’s still up.
6:25 – basically owner drivers tended to be te people who led these things. That was the death knell for the owner drivers as org political force. Giu threatened to take ther medallions away and these guys were terrified, had never been – property makes you coward. **********
7”00 third wa sa complete fiasco because of other orgs. We had set a deadline for when to do this strike and they kept putting it off and by the time we got to it it was so – you can’t call a stirke on an hour’s notice, people need time. We were going to have a third, going to be a stirke, no cabs go out. Some of the owners groups, owner drivers said let’s talk, see what judge says, we have to decide by I think 5 pm, have to have time to give people ntoice, wound up dragging so long that nobody knew whether it was a strike or not complete fiasco third time. Nobody was quite sure what’s happening, some people – everyboedy saying let’s put it off. This take s a lot of plannign and org, can’t call up at 4 am and say not sending out day shift, it’s too late. Can’t expect drivers to know, when getting 2 or 3 different conflicting messages just going to say the hell with this. *********
8:55 they would have passed these things anyway, it was – we were able to get them ameliorated through the city council. They wouldn’t just give you one ticket, give you tlc and dmv ticket, complaining because computers weren’t linked together, double jeopardy. Guys would drop off at penns tation, 15 inches from the curb. Tech within 12 inches, wind up with 1200 worth of tickets. **********
9:53 able to get a lot of the rules changed, we got kicked in the teeth a lot, but sometimes that’s thew ay it goes. Can’t expect to fight them and not expect them to hit back. It was a high cost but hey look, suppose your country is attack, you’re g oing to lose a lot of people fighting back. Is it worth the cost? Decision have to make. ******** hey guys with familes they had license suspended, but giuliani would have done it anyway. Now some people are saying we should keep quiet and they won’t enforce it. But not the way giu works, tended to go after groups considered powerless. *********Whole republican thing. Spent 10 years disarming them and once had no weapons we invaded.
11:50 I’ve always seen myself as a political person. It hink this is a good political thing to do. You know, working people, hey look, not going to get anywhere by not organizing. And look the workforce throughout the world is being moved and shook. 30 years ago if you said most cabdrivers in new york going to be from south asia, people would say are you out of your mind? ********* if you look back now, seeing trends in effect them, makes a lot of sense, we see this. You know as you understand these things intellectually and emotionally, always knew plenty of immigrants in city, knew lot of people didn’t have papers, but until you go on something like a strike you don’t realize just how many. You see this but it doesn’t really register what it means. This is a – you know, look 40 percent of pop in nyc now doesn’t speak english at home. Very signif statistic. Probably you go to london, paris, same thing. We always think of 19th century as great wave of migration, but that was little ripple compared to what’s happening now. Lot cheapr and demand for labor is worldwide. **********
14:04 you figure well hey, we could do it. Derivers also tend to have low opinoins of other drivers, we’re all out there competing, never get organized. One fo the biggest advantages bosess have, can’t get organized, can never win, what can we do. Thought you’ll be defeated in any case. Winnign is a nice feeling. *********** if only for a day, but hey, drivers hadn’t won in a long tiem.
15:00 you’re always afraid. I really didn’t expect I was going to get beat on head by cop, worry you’re going to lose your job, they say you’re not an employee but they treat you as employee, it’s, you know, cops prob arent’ going to beat you up but give you 800 tickets. ******* I don’t jknwo if you’ve seen vtl, vehicle and traffic rule book, it’s this thick. 1000 pages. ******** if a cop wants to give you a ticket, he’ll always find something.
16:10 – you know, by the 60s you have multinational corporations, communications revolutions, hey, by the 60s, by 19th century would have taken you 6 months on a boat to go to india. Even in the 60s you could do it in 20 hours, this is a big change. *******
17:00 before 9-11 a lot of guys had document problems, native born americans tend to think of immigration as either you have a green card or you don’t. I just realized there are so many gradations, 1h status and 2 q status, very importatn if you are an immigrant, I’m lost on it. It’s a byzantine maze, I don’t really think even people who run the system know how it works. ******* and remember predom a muslim population, and you know, hey, muslims are now america’s enemies. A lot of guys just went back to pakistan, mostly pakistanis, that was the ethnic group hit the hardest.
18:33 – ambient sound for one minute. Door closes soon after start. Something knocks on table. Elevator bell rings.