When Immigrants Drive the City

Anonymous Driver: What's happening in this industry, that's what I've observed in my 20 years of life working in New York City, is it is a completely biased system against taxi drivers and the reason behind this is all the news station knows that 99% of drivers are immigrants in this industry. And city knows very well, everybody is recording there in the Taxi and Limousine Commission knows very well who has what, what kind of status they have. And that’s why they are abusing them, they are using them, by putting new regulations every day.

Host: Welcome to the Working Class Heroes Podcast, I am your host, Leah Ramirez, and this is episode 2.

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Host: In episode one, Carlos and Julian reported on the crisis in the New York City Taxi Industry. They told us about what taxi drivers consider a war over the future of the industry. This is a war between Taxi drivers and app companies like Uber and Lyft. Immigrant communities are on the forefront of this war making up a majority of the driver workforce.  On October 1st of 2018, another immigrant driver committed suicide.

Today advocates are holding a vigil for a nyc uber driver who commited suicide two weeks ago. 58 year old, Fausto Luna, is the 7th worker in the New York Taxi Industry to kill himself, this year.

Host: Fausto Luna, was the first Uber driver to commit suicide following the suicides of several black and yellow car drivers. Luna was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and an Uber driver since 2013.

New York City Taxi drivers haven’t always been immigrants but beginning in the 1980’s, the taxi labor force dramatically shifted from a largely native born workforce to one where less than 10% are native born. Even though New York City has always had a large immigrant community, they have largely been seen by the city’s elite as a community to exploit, scapegoat or use and abuse for their own selfish gains. In this episode, Carlos and Julian are reporting back on the challenges these immigrant Taxi drivers face in their fight against Uber, Lyft, and the TLC.

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Taxi wars

Host: Welcome, 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.  

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