Taxi drivers get pay raise, health and disability benefits
STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 7/26/2012, 4:57 p.m.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has approved new fare hikes and benefits that could pull up struggling taxi drivers.
The TLC approved a new deal with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance that would raise fares by 17 percent, implement new rules to stop garages from overcharging, provide a first-time lease cap for brokers and the first-ever health and disability fund for taxi drivers.
The fare hike is the first one in six years for yellow taxis. The increase would take place starting in September. All of the fare hike money would go directly to drivers and they wouldn't have to share it with medallion owners.
Six TLC commissioners voted to approve the hike while two voted against it. One person abstained from voting.
In a statement from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) emailed to the AmNews by its leader, Bhairavi Desai, the group spoke of the financial hardships drivers have to endure and how there are better days ahead.
"Our incomes will end the downward spiral of poverty we have suffered for almost a decade. We'll be able to earn a decent living. All taxi companies will finally be under regulation, as we've been since the inception of the TLC, and the loopholes in existing regulations will be closed, ending eight long years of rampant lease overcharges," read the statement.
According to the TLC, it's estimated that the average fare for a $10.44 ride would increase to $12.21 in less than two months. Also, the flat fee from Manhattan to JFK airport will increase by $7 and the surcharge to and from Newark Liberty International Airport would increase by $2.50.
But not everyone is happy with the news. Those who own large fleets of taxis feel that they should be able to charge drivers higher rates for renting vehicles. The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, through a spokesperson, called the recent developments a lopsided giveback to drivers and planned on looking at legal options to fight the TLC's vote.
While owners of garages aren't happy that they won't be able to see the increased money from the hike, Desai is busy celebrating the recent victory while remembering the fight it required on the drivers' part.
"Our better tomorrow was ultimately won because of the organizing and sacrifices of our membership, who packed the hearing rooms, participated in studies, raised public consciousness and refused to give up the pursuit for justice," Desai said. "Hearing after protest, after press conference, after general meeting, NYTWA members stood strong, resilient and had the courage to negotiate and withstand intimidation and relentlessness from powerful opponents.
"Taxi workers organized, unionized, stood up and won," said Desai. "Goliath lost."