Taxi Wars



Intro Music: Street’s Disciple introduction

HostWelcome, everyone, to the Working Class Heroes Podcast. I’m your host Lupita Romero and this is Episode One:

GS: “In 1984 I joined the airforce and went through basic training. My basic training photo I had given to Douglas, as soon I had left basic I sent a 5x7 copy of my photo. He had kept it with him and had it displayed on a fireplace mantle piece all the time. All this time...During that last week of spending time with him packing his home. Amongst our conversations after telling him it’s not too late. I said listen Doug, you’re going to go through this experience but I don’t want you to do it alone I want you to have me with you. During the process of packing the fireplace where he kept a few other photos of family members, I had packed those photos in a box and left him just that one and I said this one, I want you to keep. I want you to keep it with you so that you know you’re not alone. That I’m there with you and I’ll always be with you. He did.”

Host: That was George Schifter talking about his brother, Douglas. Douglas Schifter was a long time taxi driver who for years wrote about the dire situation the industry found itself in. He had a regular column in one of the taxi industry newspapers, the Black Car News. He committed suicide early Monday morning, February 5th, right in front of City Hall. Douglas Schifter was the first recorded casualty in a war backed by Wall Street investors and led by app companies like Uber and Lyft. It’s a war over the streets, taxi fares and over who will own the New York Taxi Industry. Caught in the crossfire are more than a hundred thousand taxi drivers. A few of these drivers have made the ultimate sacrifice.  

GS: “He took all of his possessions and a box of ziploc bags, and the shotgun. He got dressed up in a custom tailored shirt and pants and his best shoes and took the shotgun, box of shells. And his tablet, drivers license, ID card and some money and my picture. He drove up to city hall with everything in a ziploc bag except for the shotgun and the shells he proceeded to clear off the top of his head. Just drove up and did it. But he was not alone. He knew I was there with him. He knows I’m still there with him. I miss him. I think of him just about everyday.

This story is part one in a series dedicated to stepping onto the frontlines of this struggle, reporting on how this war began, why its gone so long, who’s involved and what taxi drivers are doing to win the war. in June, four months after Douglas Schifter committed suicide, drivers are holding a vigil on 86th street and East End avenue for the fifth driver to commit suicide...Carlos Perez and Julian Guerrero are reporting back….

Full Episode transcript.