Taxi Workers Seek AFL-CIO Membership

By • on September 15, 2011

August 3, 2011

by James Parks

Saying “a worker is a worker,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), and several taxi drivers from New York City today told the AFL-CIO Executive Council they want to be a part of the national labor federation.

They said drivers work 60 to 70 hours a week in one of the most grueling and dangerous jobs around—at minimum wage. They have no job security. Employers routinely misclassify them as “independent contractors” and deny the drivers protections given to traditional employees, including the freedom to form a union. They risk their health and safety daily, from sitting in a stationary position for hours to the real possibility of being assaulted, robbed or even murdered by a passenger or street thugs. And they’re completely uninsured, unprotected.

Formed in 1998, the NYTWA is now a powerful dues-based membership organization for taxi workers that is widely recognized as the representative of drivers in the New York City taxi industry and as an increasingly powerful voice for taxi workers in Philadelphia. They led the fight for legislation that raises the penalties for assaulting a taxi driver in New York and are working hard to gain health care benefits for drivers.

In a statement today, the council said:

The success of the Taxi Workers Alliance will provide an inspiring example of how workers can overcome legal and organizational barriers to create powerful unions and of how the AFL-CIO stands committed, no matter the obstacles, to helping all workers find a path to winning justice on the job.

The council delegated to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka the authority to issue a charter to the Alliance as the Taxi Workers Alliance organizing committee sometime in the future. Once it is chartered, the Taxi Workers organizing committee will serve as a national umbrella organization for organizing new unions of taxi workers, beginning with the NYTWA and the Philadelphia Taxi Workers Alliance.

The Taxi Workers Alliance also will build on the NYTWA’s success by launching organizing drives in other cities where taxi workers are ready to organize but taxi worker unions do not currently exist.

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