By SAFURA KHAN, age 13, MARIAH WILSON, age 13, and SHEMAR WILSON, age 13
When New York City yellow taxicab drivers felt there were too many challenges to face on the job, they decided to come together and figure out solutions. In 1998, they formed the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA). By fall 2011, they joined a union called the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), so they can join other workers such as, carpenters and plumbers, in finding legal solutions to their problems as taxi drivers.
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the NYTWA says, “We provide basic benefits like legal defense. Our main goal is really to raise drivers’ interests to the table and to win protections and economic justice for them.”
Taxi drivers earn very little money, but they have to spend more than half of it just to do their job. At the end of a 12-hour work day (most people work 8 hours), taxi drivers make $286 before expenses. Expenses include keeping the gas tank full, paying the garage to lease, or borrow, the car, and paying an MTA tax for each ride. They also have to pay a fee when passengers use their credit card, as well as for any repairs, tips, tolls or parking fees. At the end of the day, taxi drivers take home only $96, which is 40 percent below NYC living wage.
Solutions proposed by the NYTWA include: a 15 percent fare increase (2004 was the last time drivers got a raise, even though the cost of living and gas prices continue to climb); stop garages from overcharging; get rid of MTA tax; and lower the credit card fee.
Listen to Mariah Wilson, an eighth grader, talking about the difficulties of being a taxi driver.