With all the recent kerfuffle involving the MTA transit workers union, New Yorkers have found themselves thinking a little more deeply on the nature of public transit (ok, so maybe you yourself haven’t been, but you really should you know).
Where I hailed him: East Village
Where he hails from: Massachusetts
Years as a cabbie: 25
Previous profession: Man, I’ve done all kinds of things
Hmmm... I know there used to be a union for drivers. I honestly don’t know if there still is one. I just got back into this game again three or four months ago, so I don’t really know. I imagine they do, but I can’t really say. I remember back when I first started there was one. Every lease they were taking two dollars to pay the dues. Back then though you didn’t just lease as an individual. You worked for a fleet, and got a salary and insurance and benefits. Now you’ve got no coverage, you’re all on your own. But I’m just a part-time driver, so I don’t have any career interest here.
Where I hail him: East Village
Where he hails from: Pakistan
Years as a cabbie: 15
Previous Profession: Construction worker
I’ve never joined a union is all my years of driving. There’s three or four of them. But you know what? There’s no unity in any of the unions. Kind of defeats the point. I’ve been driving since 1991 — all that time for myself. I’ve done well, so I wouldn’t give much thought to joining a union. So... Do you notice anything different about this car? No? It’s the new hybrid! There’s only ten of them in the city right now and my garage has them all. They give them to the senior drivers. It’s great. The gas mileage is wonderful. I’m paying only about $18 a shift. This is a big difference from this summer — driving a Crown Victoria and paying $57 a shift. Look for the “9V” medallion number. That’s how you can tell you’re in a hybrid.
Where I hailed him: Midtown East
Where he hails from: Russia
Years as a cabbie: 26
Previous profession: Business
A strong union has been spoken about in cabdriver circles for 40 years, but it never comes. The fact is this: There are no steady drivers. There are immigrants who may leave at any time. Part-time drivers. Students. It’s impossible to organize these people. I’ve been in the business for 26 years and they’ve been talking about how a great a union could be for us every day during that time. Not in this life. Maybe in some other life! Everyone is against us: the police, the TLC, the city, the pedestrians, the riders... Do you talk to any happy cab drivers? A few? These are new drivers, I suspect. They’ll learn. No, I’m not miserable. Just cynical. Especially about unions.
Where I hailed him: Chelsea
Where he hails from: Egypt
Years as a cabbie: 5
Previous profession: Student
We have no good leaders. What are there, 20,000 drivers? You’d think we could produce some leadership from among these ranks. Even if you have 19,999 sheep, couldn’t there be one lion? I suppose that’s too much to hope. We have pretty bad working conditions. No medical coverage, no insurance, definitely no retirement. It’s tough to make a living. It’s tough to organize.
Where I hailed him: West Village
Where he hails from: India
Years as a cabbie: 12
Previous profession: Mechanic
We have one, but it is not so strong. It is the way of the business, you know. Many times for a person it is not a long career, it is a thing they do for a couple or months or part-time or here and there to make money — so they are not interested in the union. If you will be driving for a long time, maybe you join, but if it is just for a little while, probably you don’t worry about very much.