Bhairavi Desai leads NY Taxi Workers Alliance Rallly at City Hall to Mourn Four Driver Suicides and Demand Action

(New York, NY) On Wednesday, March 28, NYTWA members, including yellow cab, green car, black car, and app-dispatched drivers, gathered on the steps of City Hall to mourn four colleagues who committed suicide in the past four months and to demand immediate action by the Mayor. Drivers stood with Gabriel Ochisor, the son of Nicanor Ochisor, a yellow-taxi owner-driver who committed suicide on March 16th.

NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said, “The Governor, Speaker and Majority Leader should have been standing with us today to give us courage as we mourn our brothers, instead they are scheming to put congestion pricing on the backs of drivers. Yellow cabs, in particular, have contributed to close to $1 billion toward the MTA since 2009. There is a serious crisis among drivers.  Any other cut to their wage – especially one aimed at reducing their ridership – is going to have serious human consequences. Albany and City Hall need to hear our call for help. It’s born from tragedy not theater.”

Four driver deaths in four months: Nicanor Ochisor, a yellow taxi owner-driver, Danilo Corporan Castillo and Alfredo Perez, Bronx livery drivers, and Douglas Schifter, a black car driver. All driven to financial ruin by unregulated Wall Street darlings Uber and Lyft, who in 2016 had more lobbyists than Walmart, Microsoft and Amazon combined. Meanwhile, an MIT study found more than half of Uber drivers earn below minimum wage. No driver wins this vicious race to the bottom.

Nicanor’s family has started a GoFundMe campaign to pay off his medallion so his wife can finally retire. Speakers at the rally included:  Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance; Gabriel Ochisor, son of Nicanor Ochisor; City Council Member Barry Grodenchik; City Council Member Stephen Levin

Nicanor, the most recent driver pushed to suicide, was an immigrant worker and a yellow taxi medallion owner-driver, who drove with his wife, an increasing pattern among drivers’ families working around the clock without time to rest or recuperate with loved ones, adding to the crushing devastation of poverty. Nicanor lost his life savings and was pushed to financial ruin when New York City broke its promise to professional drivers. Instead of keeping its commitment to yellow cab drivers, who operate in the heavily-regulated medallion industry, the city allowed Uber, Lyft, and their cohorts to flood our streets with vehicles covered by zero regulation. This anti-regulation zealotry came at the expense of professional drivers. Black car, yellow cab, green car and even Uber drivers themselves have been pushed into poverty as drivers see their incomes plummet, competing for fares in streets swamped by 100,000 for-hire vehicles and with no relief in sight.

We must stop treating the devastation of people’s lives as inevitable. We cannot allow Uber to continue to destroy lives for a business model that hasn’t even been proven sustainable. We must come together now and demand protections for ALL drivers and for rational regulations that level the playing field.

NYTWA has the following demands:

Cap the number of for-hire-vehicles to protect full-time work. Yellow and green cabs are already capped. Uber/Lyft are not and are responsible for the flooding of cars on our streets.

Establish the TLC-regulated yellow and green cab meter rate as the wage floor across all sectors. No company can go lower.  No more slashing rates on drivers’ backs. Uber & co. should also not be able to charge more from the rider and pay less to the driver.

Raise the current rates so that drivers are able to support themselves and their families.

Place caps on expenses charged drivers such as vehicle financing, commission / lease rates and TLC fines.  Fines should be in relation to how much we earn, not punish us for being poor.

Protect drivers against wage theft by increasing the Taxi and Limousine Commission enforcement capability and allowing restitution to drivers when companies have been found to violate rules.

Founded in 1998, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) is the 19,000-member strong union of NYC taxicab drivers, representing yellow cab drivers, green car, and black car drivers, including drivers for Uber and Lyft. We fight for justice, rights, respect and dignity for the over 50,000 licensed men and women who often labor 12 hour shifts with little pay and few protections in the city’s mobile sweatshop. Our members come from every community, garage, and neighborhood. To find out more visit NYTWA.org, follow us on twitter.com/nytwa or like us on facebook.com/nytwa.

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