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Response to Recursion (Reply #29)

Mon May 9, 2016, 07:40 AM

30. Here is more information on how unions are engaged in COLLECTIVE BARGAINING for taxi drivers.

http://www.aflcio.org/Features/Innovators/Taxi!-Taxi!-Cabbies-Form-Unlikely-Union

For nearly 15 years, taxi workers in New York City—and now in other cities—have been building a union. They were up against a lot: Each yellow cab taxi driver in New York City has been classified by the city as an independent operator—a status that excludes them from coverage by most U.S. labor laws and that means their union cannot appeal to the National Labor Relations Board for recognition of its right to represent workers. But these supposedly unorganizable workers refused to let anybody tell them whether they could be a union or not. They organized a union themselves.

Last year, the NTWA, based in New York and led by Bhairavi Desai, became the latest affiliate union of the AFL-CIO, and the first group to receive an organizing committee charter from America’s largest labor organization in a half-century. The members of NTWA have done groundbreaking work in unifying taxi workers, increasing drivers’ take-home pay and building a structure to provide the taxi workers access to health care.

The taxi workers are part of a new wave of workers who are organizing against the odds. Car wash workers, domestic workers and others who are not ordinarily thought of as union members are discovering and using the power of collective action to improve their lives and work. In early May, for instance, more than 235 mostly immigrant livery or "Black Car" drivers from Town Car International, located in Queens, voted by a 2-to-1 margin to be represented by the International Association of Machinists (IAM). The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and United Steelworkers (USW) and a few other unions also represent cab drivers.

Being a cab driver in New York City is hard. Workers are often on the streets for 14 or 16 hours a day, six, sometimes seven days a week in what the U.S. Department of Labor labels one of the country’s most dangerous professions.

Taxi workers buy fuel themselves and pay high lease rates for vehicles—sometimes more than $60,000 over the usable life of a car worth $30,000. Most taxi workers also must lease medallions, which are the permits required for cabbies to pick up passengers who hail them on the streets of New York City. Garage companies charge drivers a 5 percent fee on every credit card transaction. And as independent contractors, the taxi workers are on their own to buy health insurance.

“All the risk is ours,” said NTWA member and taxi worker Jamil Hussain. “If gas prices rise, we earn less. If it’s a slow day, we earn less. But the company gets its money no matter what!”

For each problem, the NTWA has a solution. It has worked with New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to run a trial program to cut the credit card fees by more than half. It has a health care plan for members in the works. The union has negotiated better car and medallion leases with some companies and has been pressuring others to do the same. Since December, the taxi workers have held more than 50 demonstrations against the companies that refuse to bargain.

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