Taxi wars

 

Transcript: 

Script Key:

Host dialogue will be in italics

Reporters dialogue will be in bold
JG = Julian Guerrero

CP = Carlos Perez

“Driver/Subject dialogue will be in quotes”

BD: Bhairavi Desai - Executive Director of NYTWA

JG: Jose Guerrero - Yellow cab lease driver

Francis/F: Uber driver in Manhattan

RC: Richard Chow, Kenny Chow’s brother

GO: Grace Ortiz, Mike’s partner

MO: Mike Ortiz - Part time Uber driver

MA: Mohammad Ali Awan - yellow cab lease driver

GS: George Schifter - Douglas Schifter’s brother


Intro Music: Street’s Disciple introduction

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.  

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….

JG: I had come across news of the vigil while doing some research on the New York taxi crises underway in New York City. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance was calling a vigil to honor Kenny Chow, whose body had been found the day before under the Brooklyn Bridge. When Carlos and I arrived to 86th street and East End Avenue we found a small grouping of people who were waiting for the vigil to start. These folks had gathered only a few feet away where Kenny’s yellow cab had been found. You could tell there was a tragedy unfolding just looking at the people and how they spoke and carried themselves. Many of them had actually brought flowers with them.

CP: I remember it was an ugly day. The sky was grey and it had been raining all morning. When we got there we made our way to the end of the park where the mourners had gathered and where they had made a small altar with flowers to remember Kenny and pay their respect.

JG: Just a few feet from where this spontaneous altar had been created for Kenny Chow was the railing and over this railing was the East River and if you looked down at the East River, you would see waters churning and rushing by. It’s hard to imagine what was going through Kenny’s mind before he jumped.

CP: Eventually, a woman made herself to the front of the altar and addressed the crowd. This is what she said.

BD: “It’s really hard to gather words in a moment like this. We came here to the site where we believe that brother Kenny Chow would have taken his last breath on May 11th. We want to pray for his eternal peace, we want to honor his memory, we want to thank him for his years of service to the city of New York and we want his family to know that Kenny will never be forgotten. That he has a driver family of 100,000 men and women who know exactly what he was going through. Who shared the streets with him who shared the struggle and today we share the sorrow of his family. This is now the 5th funeral of a driver who has committed suicide in five months and it’s really hard to muster the word to describe the equal level the sorrow and rage that we feel. I mean, it’s just men and women who work so hard to make their ends meet and all they’re seeing every single day is deeper and deeper poverty. And today we mourn and we pay respect to a life that’s been lost too soon and we say to the universe to protect Mrs. Chow and her daughter and the nine brothers and sisters of Kenny Chow who loved him throughout his life and stood by him through his darkest hours and we just want to thank them for the courage that the Chow family has shown that they have taken their personal grief and brought it to the public so that the plight of Kenny’s fellow drivers could be heard.”

JG: That was Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and this wasn’t their first vigil for a taxi driver. As Bhairavi said, Kenny Chow was the fifth driver in just about as many months to have committed suicide. For what its worth, Kenny was a medallion owner but a taxi driver who had been driving a yellow cab for a long time. He’s what you would call an “owner-driver” but we’ll get back to that later. While we were doing research for this story there had been a sixth driver who committed suicide. His name was Abdul Saleh.

CP: New York City taxi drivers have been struggling since 2011. It’s always been hard to make a living as a taxi driver but in 2011 it became significantly worse. That’s because Uber entered the New York City taxi industry and its made things harder than ever. Since 2011, the streets have become flooded with drivers hired by Uber and Lyft. There’s double the number of taxi drivers than in 2011 and almost triple the number of vehicles on the road now. But the number of people looking for a cab hasn’t kept up with that number of growth. Taxi drivers have been suffering for years without passengers noticing anything but for those who have seen it up close...

BD: “The silence is deafening. We are two blocks away from Gracie Mansion, Where’s our mayor? Kenny Chow came and he took his last breath two blocks away from the home of the mayor of the city of New York.”

“Douglas Schifter took his last breath one block away from the place where the mayor and the CIty Council work. This should tell the city of New York something.”

JG: Even though the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, represents thousands of taxi drivers, we’re talking about almost 20,000 drivers, their voice gets drowned out easily by Uber and Lyft. As a matter of fact, Uber and Lyft have spent more money than Amazon,  Microsoft and Walmart combined to get their message heard.

Uber Commercial - various drivers: “and I’m an Uber partner. Yellow taxis were difficult for me. The effort the energy the hassle. Sitting in a car for 10 hours, 12 hours. The amount of time that you put in. I don’t want that anymore. It’s significant comparing to Uber. I’m never going back to the yellow taxi. I wouldn’t be living the life I’m living right now if it wasn’t for Uber. You make more money and you don’t have to hustle for the money. When I want to work I do it. Being a part of Uber to move from the bottom of the ladder to the top of the ladder in no time. It’s like my own business. Easy, convenient, and everybody likes it. They pick up a lot of ppl from all over the world. They say I love Uber I say I love Uber too.

JG: Along with the commercial we just heard, Uber has spent millions of dollars lobbying state politicians and city council members to get what they want. Each of their talking points tends to play on the economic anxieties that working people have been facing for a long time but especially since 2008 economic crisis.

Uber Commercial #2 - various drivers speaking: “I was pretty much just struggling to make ends meet. In and out of work, I couldn’t pay my mortgage. I was having a lot of difficulty. When I finally came to Uber, it was probably the best thing that ever happened in my life. I make more money and I spend more time with my family. It’s been a blessing. My car is my office and Uber is my partner”

JG: We spoke with two part time Uber drivers, Grace and Mike Ortiz, who actually have full time jobs already. But they do Uber part time to pay for daycare, for their child. Day School takes the burden off many Working Families in finding a babysitter or a grandparent or an aunt or uncle who can care for their children. And in a day school environment their daughter gets a chance to socialize with other children and gets the attention she needs for her development by paid professionals. These are opportunities that aren't guaranteed to Working Families as they often have to negotiate these things with other financial demands or priorities. So for the Ortiz family working part time with Uber allows them to make that difference.

GO: “Rent’s very expensive. We have two daughters. One is 18 years old, she’s a full time college student. And then we have a two year old who is a full time...daycare..student, I guess (slight laugh). And umm, alone for Amber it’s $200 a week so working Uber, for us, is how we pay for her childcare. We both make around $39,000, yea, thirty-nine plus and with rent and credit card bills and expenses, it doesn’t cut it so we need this extra income.”

For Mike, the issues go beyond economic concerns

MO: “Well, I have a young daughter so i need the extra money to pay for daycare. Daycare is expensive in New York City. So I started working at a catering hall. In the catering hall I was there from 8am to 1am making $11 an hour. It got to a point where I was doing that for about 8 months but it got to a point where I’m only sleeping for 5 hours on the weekend. The entire weekend. The thing is about being in catering is, it’s demanding. Like, say for example, It's a party starts at 11 you have to be there around 8 and that party is not going to end for 5 hours and a lot of times they’ll have you do a double shift you know so that party ends at say, it ends at 4, the next party going to start start at 6 you gotta start you already have to start preparing for the next party and that party may not end till like 12 so by the time you get home everybody's already sleeping at home. When I would wake up on saturday morning, my daughter is sleeping, I go home, my daughter is sleeping. I wake up the next day to go to work my daughter was sleeping. So whole weekends I was spending away from her and the only time I got to see her awake was through Facetime and that took a toll. At that point you’re only making, what, you doing seven hour shifts, $77 dollars for the hours, $77 for a party. You know, to get up again to go to my normal job monday morning. ”

JG: Trying to set up your license with the Taxi and Limousine Commission can be kind of hard and difficult. They have a number of regulations that one has to meet before you're able to drive legally on the streets.

MO: “You have to go online you have to send your driver’s license, fill out the whole application, name, date of birth, social so for like any application you do for a job you have to send your driver’s license, your registration, your insurance card, and they do a background check and then they’ll let you know, they’ll get back to you if you got approved. It normally takes two weeks to a month depending on how many requests they are getting. I got mine back in like two weeks.”

JG: Dealing with garage bosses who owns the fleets and who play games with each driver makes it even more difficult. So for Uber being able to streamline the registration process makes it that much more attractive to people who work full-time jobs and who don't want to deal with all the hassle. This matters because a significant amount of Uber and Lyft drivers are actually part time driver who already work a full-time job or even multiple part-time jobs. So if you're strapped for cash being able to sign up for Uber and drive with your own car and no boss breathing down your neck some of the promises Uber makes to driver are true in this regard but the more we spoke with the Ortiz family the more it seemed Uber fit their specific lifestyle and their needs. Mike drove passengers around for Uber a lot more in the beginning but now he spends most of his time delivering food through UberEats because as Mike says -

MO: “I can take my family with me so I’m still spending time with Amber and stuff like that. What we’ll do is we’ll take the whole family, I take my wife, my daughter. We go to the park, you know, we hang out at the park, we’ll do like two or three hours of Uber, we stop, we go for dinner, I’m still with the family. Go for dinner, spend time with the family, we hang out at a park again, drive around for 2 hours again. I’m still spending time with her as I’m working so that’s one of the things I really liked about staying with just Eats”.

JG: For Mike, he doesn’t have to choose between working and spending time with his family. While all this sounds very convenient for the full-time worker looking for a little bit of extra cash on the side, this kind of sounds like neoliberal hell. I mean the idea that you have to work a second or third job or work more than 40 hours or have to bring your family to work just so you can spend time with them is something that we taken for granted. But people are going to do what they can and take advantage of every opportunity To make that little bit of extra money if it means putting their kids through childcare or providing other opportunities for their families. This app-based gig-industry has streamlined a lot of these opportunities.

CP: So you hear this a lot from people who drive part time for Uber. They say they make some good money but the story seems different for everyone.

JG:  Right, that's because a lot of these drivers are driving in the outer boroughs far from the city’s center where the majority of drivers, full-time drivers, are plugging away day in and day out. So Mike doesn't have to compete as much with other drivers for fares and driving a yellow cab or Uber car in Manhattan though, it comes with its own particularities.

In NY in 2017 we’re facing our worst transportation crisis in decades. Subway breakdowns are a common occurrence, subway reliability is way down. And we’re shedding bus riders at an alarming and accelerating pace. Traffic is slowing down. Some of that is so many people trying to use the street. But the other big factor that we have is if you look at Uber and Lyft and Via, they’re adding 20 to 25 thousand more vehicles to city streets every year. That means we’ve added over 600 million miles of motor vehicle traffic in NYC over the last 3 years.

JG: We spoke to a couple of drivers who actually drive in the city center where traffic and competition over fares is the worst. One of the drivers we spoke to is Francis, a full-time Uber driver, who drives mainly and Manhattan and this is what he had to say.

Francis: “I don't know how to explain this. When you are making money, be able to pay your rent, be able to take care of your bills and whatever you get. But now you moved from that stage to a stage where you are going home with $30 for a whole shift, 12 hours. How much does that come down to? It comes down to around $2.50 cent per hour. Far, far below the minimum wage.

Taxi drivers Themselves have to take on all the risk of driving so they have to cover the cost of gas, car maintenance and traffic fines. And all of this to provide a service to the public. So when there’s gridlock and there's way too many drivers on the road more and more of their time is spent cruising around looking for fares. As a result many drivers are working much longer shifts to justify that effort.

Francis: “So the best thing is to do double so that way I can get do the rush hours is complete. I make money. And after that everything goes down but the risk there because I'm tired now.  When I noticed my attention and everything has been reduced, I’ll look for a corner and park to start sleeping. You know, to recover. Sometimes I’m made to move. But that's the way it works out for us now. So just to make something reasonable to try to go home with, you know, for 24 hours you're going home with $100-150. How much does it come per hour? You might think I'm making it up. I have the slips right here. Can show you.”

CP: Just so that the audience is aware, we also got a chance speak to Jose, who is Julian's dad and who's been driving a cab for over 25 years.

Francis: “It’s been very difficult. As I said to you, I’m losing close to $40-50 a day that’s $800 to $1000 a month. That’s a lot of money that you lose. And you’re working, it doesn’t mean you’re working less. You’re working just as much, even more some drivers stay longer, some drivers stay longer, some drivers would go home at one in the morning, now you see them working until 3am. I remember you used to make on a Friday or Saturday night ten years ago, $230-$260 a day for yourself. Now you struggle to make $100. Now, there’s more work on Saturday and Friday but absolutely every application cab is out there in the streets, the traffic is horrendous.”

CP: The frustration can be heard on both driver’s voices. And this is frustration on top of generally difficult working conditions.

JG: Right, Working conditions so hostile to drivers that it would lead them or some of them to commit suicide. And these hostile work conditions are practically facilitated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission or also known as the TLC. They, alongside garage owners who own whole Fleets Taxi medallions and the medallions brokers who are playing with taxi drivers and the medallion owners, they all get a piece of this. As well as the New York Police Department.

CP: The New York City Taxi industry is a pretty complicated system that can sometimes mask the ways that drivers are being exploited.

JG:  Yellow cab drivers and the driver system is pretty much rooted to the taxi medallions. But it's a little complicated so let's try to explain this a little bit.

CP: The New York City government issues medallions in an attempt to regulate the taxi industry. These medallions are supposed to give the drivers who own them the sole right to pick up passengers in the city. But these medallions are also property in their own right and have acquired a value over time based on the supply and demand of the Medallion market. As well as racketeering and other kinds of efforts to shoot up their value for the owners. A small percentage of drivers have their own medallion and they're known as owner-drivers. Many of these drivers were able to acquire the capital or the credit so that they can invest thousands of dollars into buying the medallion. Since it cost thousands of dollars to get a medallion and maintain it, the idea is to have the car on the road making as much money as possible, at any given time. That's why the need to recruit friends and family is so great.

JG: But the number of owner-drivers who own their own medallion is small compared to the number of medallions owned by large fleets who run hundreds of taxis to make a profit. For drivers who don't own their own medallion, they’re know as lease-drivers and they show up to these large garages where, like we said, there are hundreds taxis waiting to be leased out to drivers. They’re there hoping that the garage owner will lease them a car that day but a lot of this relationship hinges on favoritism or deals the lease-driver can cut with the garage.

CP: When fleet bosses make these deals with drivers, they want to shift as much of the risk and cost over to the drivers.  The risk I mean, is the risk anyone takes when they're trying to make some money. Most places where you work, you are paid a set wage for a set schedule. When a taxi driver goes to a fleet boss, they aren't guaranteed any wage instead there’s sets of costs and fees they must pay that’s part of the lease. Anything more than the cost of the fees that go to the fleet bosses, the driver gets to keep.

JG: So whether or not it's a good day or a bad day, whether their car breaks down or not, whether they get fined by the NYPD or not, the driver still has to make sure that the garage gets the money that they want. Drivers also have to pay for the gas and make sure to give the car back with a full tank. This is how Muhammad Ali, who’s been driving a Yellow Cab for more than 25 years as a lease driver explains what it means to lease from the garages and why some drivers stick to this taxi work.

MA: “12 hour shift, all pressures for 6 hours you just work for the fleet owners and Medallion owners, and then it's uncertainty when the other six hours is when you're about to make your own money. It's dead hours, this and that, so many things. Is like the biggest problem in the industry, which I think for me, was always like to finding the bathroom and legal parking at the same time. And the whole Medallion thing. Medallion medallion, medallion. Is this ugly plastic thing they, like, smeared on their dashboard and they just like, inflated like all artificial inflation of the price because the mob jumped in and they raised the medallion price from $300,000 to all the way to $1.1 million and all this nonsense was going on. It's never like— my mind never accepted that mathematic, because everybody, since I told you like I’ve been driving for 21 years, so all my family my friends and many many friends, like “youre stupid, youre stupid why don't, why don’t you buy your medallion?” I said, like, it doesn't make any sense to me with any mathematics, or conclusion it just doesn't make any sense to me to buy a medallion and own a medallion and any cops can stop you and your medallion is gone and any accident happened and your medallion’s gone and all the risk factor and all these mathematics, like $5,000 a month just to pay the lease on medallion. So it's never like you know, like no, I will never put the slavery chains around my neck or shackles or cuffs. I want to be like independent and I want to be free. Plus, like I always have a hope that there will be another day.”

CP:The Medallion Brokers facilitate a relationship between drivers and those who own the medallions. So as a third-party, the Broker’s goal is to make as much money out of this relationship with as little investment from their own part as possible.

JG: And they do this with higher interest rates. Now, what would push a driver to cut a deal with a medallion broker? Really, it's the bad experience that they have with Big garages and Fleet owners who screw them over constantly. The idea that you would have greater control over your working conditions and not deal with a garage boss is quite attractive. As a third-party, these Brokers have no real care nor interest for the drivers or the Medallion owners long-term. And because they are this third-party they control all the communication between these two groups and use that to their advantage. So for example they push drivers into deals to buy a new car while they rent the medallion for a five-year plan, let’s say. For a while, the driver pays for the rental of the medallion and the new car at the same time. The driver figures that for three years, they'll pay for both of these costs but by the end of year three they'll finish the car payments. So from that point on, they reason, they'll be keeping more money they make for themselves. These last two years of profit is what keeps these drivers going through three hard years of driving. And this is exactly the moment when Brokers have been known to jump in. They take away the medallion from the drivers and they'll claim that the medallion owner wants the medallion back and will unilaterally break the deals with the drivers. Brokers then sell the three-year-old car back to a used car dealership for a couple thousand dollars. So that's all profit, no risk. Brokers take advantage of the fact that they're working with a largely immigrant labor force who knows little about laws and who may struggle with forms of communication that the Brokers use and who are often or perhaps maybe prone to letting authority figures take the lead in a country where anti-immigrant sentiment is so high.

So you’re probably thinking What is a TLC have to say about all of this. In reality the TLC plays itself as an organization that is trying to manage all the competing interests of the various groups in the taxi industry. However, it tends to privilege those with capital, with influence and with money and within the taxi industry that tends to be the large Fleet owners, the garage boses, and the Medallion Brokers, if not other medallion-owners. TLC Commissioners tend to use their position to manage influence and power between the industry and politicians. It's not an untypical thing to see because we commonly see in Congress there's a revolving door between regulatory bodies like the TLC and the industries they are supposed to be regulating. Now the TLC will claim they have a court system to allow due process for drivers but this is what Francis had to say about the TLC court system

Francis: “I'll give you an example. We have a case in TLC Court. Then we go to the court and they will give us a very nice offer so as not to challenge. Like they’ll tell you, okay, you see this thing, this penalty for this offense is $100 but if I do not challenge it and pay $150 there will be no points there will be nothing. You see, instead of wasting time, we decide to pay it and move on. Now we pay the fine based on what TLC told us. Now the same TLC and the same information is passed through the state. Now we go back to the state, pay the fine and get the points. We've pleaded guilty right there by accepting the TLC's offer. Like I said, the genie is already out of the bottle. The only thing that can come out of it is that those of us will start losing our hack license. It's so easy for us for the TLC to just suspend and then revoke the license. So that's enough for them, to use that to get rid of us. It's just like entrapping us for the other party. Once the state gives me the points, now the TLC can turn around and say, “ok, your DMV record shows you have points” forgetting they were the ones who made me the offer telling me not to challenge and there won't be any points. And we cab drivers we are very particular about the points.”

JG: In reality, it is a system of Double Jeopardy for the drivers and likewise when drivers get burned by brokers and garage bosses, the TLC is slow to respond if they do at all.

CP: This system of Double Jeopardy extends outside of the TLC.  With the NYPD fining drivers for the same violations as the TLC. And the city makes a lot of money from these fines. New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer, stated that parking and motor vehicle violations fines along brought in more than $550 million dollars in 2016. Small amount, right? And that's not counting vehicle-camera violation fines which were almost $100 million in 2016. Revenue brought in by TLC fines and settlements plus TLC courts was nearly $22 million in 2016. Taxi drivers complain about these fines and lack of due process constantly. In a setup like this drivers get shaken down from all sides.

*Music break*

JG: When Carlos and I first started reporting on this story, we got the chance to join the New York Taxi Workers Alliance for a meeting that they were having with the staff of city council member Jumaane Williams. Meetings with City Council Members or their staff tend to be well rehearsed before hand and it's a time when groups deliver policy proposals and they designate a person to introduce themselves, the group they came with them and they start off by summarizing the issue in a concise way. Then others from the group jump in and flesh the issue in more personal ways and how they’re being impacted. Carlos and I are sitting in this room, trying to stay out the way while members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance present their case and put forward the demands they had developed. About fifteen minutes into it, a driver who’s sitting next to me all of a sudden cuts in. He starts by saying that he hasn’t read the demands in the white binder but..

Anonymous driver: “I don't know what is there in the folder. But I've been driving for this industry for 20 years. I have driven a Yellow Cab, I have driven Car Service and now, I drive with a black car service. 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 and 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. Every day new regulations. Tell me, sir, you have driven your car, if you’re light bulb blows off, what happens, cop pulls you over and they give you summons for 24 hours, right? To get it corrected. I’m driving a taxi, in all the streets where there are bumps and where big holes are there, if my light bulb blows off then they give me ticket, it’s a mandatory fine of $150. How do I even know machine even went wrong? For what reason its a mandatory fine of $150? What kind of law is that? And then on the other side the assembly said...”

JG: So as this unnamed driver was speaking I could see his hand under the table shaking. He was speaking truth to power, probably doing it for the first time and speaking more off his direct experience than any studies or research he's done on his own time. But again the frustration is all there and it's very real.

CP: Especially now when we're seeing a growing intensity of anti-immigrant sentiment. For some drivers, like for Jose and Ali, is a feeling of betrayal from the public

JG: “We’ve worked hard, we work hard we work for 80 years, we serve the people. It’s like getting stabbed in the back, really, if you want me to put it in different words. It just shouldn’t be.”

MA: “The public always hated us but they needed us. They never wanted us, they just like needed us. So there was like kind of like a very thin balance, you know? Because of the need we were there and so deal with us but soon enough when they don't need us they don't want us, they never wanted us, and now they don't need us. So that's the simple reality.”

Music break

RC: “I’m Kenny’s brother. I’m Richard Chow. So I love my brother. He’s very hardworking. He loves his family, so I want to say (begins crying) I love my brother, please.”

BD: “I can’t imagine the courage it takes for a family in grief to come out to the public and share their sorrow. And from the depths of my heart, I want to thank the Chow family for their sense of courage and their sense of community. And I want to say to them that we promise you that brother Kenny’s death will not be in vain. That we will remember and we will carry on his struggle and we will continue until justice is served in his name and in his honor and to the protection of all of his driver brothers and sisters that remain.”

CP: These families, the Chow family, the Ochisor family, the Schifter family and the families of the other drivers who are committed suicide- they are working class heroes and they, along with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, who are giving these families a platform to grieve publicly, won’t let their deaths be in vain.

BR: “People are dying. This is not a warzone, this is a business, this is a job. You should not be dying because you’re sinking into poverty and you feel a hopelessness over your future. This is just wrong and the city has to take action, and it has to take the right action, and it has to significant action, and it needs to take the action NOW!"

Host: We’re out of time for now but we’ll be releasing the next episode in two weeks where Carlos and Julian will explain why the New York City politicians let Uber and Lyft wage this war on drivers. For more information about this taxi war, including articles, photos, and transcripts of this episode make sure to check out WorkingClassHeroesPodcast.com. This is Lupita Romero and we’ll be back soon. Always in solidarity.