Thursday, January 23, 2014

What a taxi driver union could and could not be

One thing a taxi driver union could not be under current law is a collective bargaining agent as opposed to fleet owners. Fleet drivers are a small minority and even most of them have more of a tenant candy store relationship with owners. Generally they owe rent to medallion owners whether they work or not and regardless of what they earn. Casual drivers  who work on a catch as catch can basis could more easily withhold their labor but on any given day their complete absence would barely make a dent as far as passengers go. Now in addition Green taxis and semi legal livery cabs could break a yellow taxi strike.

Taxi drivers as independent contractors have no employee legal rights including collective bargaining. Most taxi drivers are legally wed to a medallion and an owner.

Local 3036 limped along as The Lease Drivers Benefit Fund collecting two dollars per day from a few thousand fleet drivers. 3036 had signed its own death warrant by accepting "voluntary" leasing which of course was no such thing in reality.  3036 was born in a strike that was backed by the then mighty New York Central Labor Council headed by the legendary Harry VanArsdale. At this time taxi drivers were legal employees protected by New Deal labor law. Ms. Bhairavi Desai aspired to build a union bigger and stronger than 3036 had been but could pull off brief protests that did not compel bosses or government to pay heed.

Michael Bloomberg made her an offer that she accepted. She only had to adopt his hate full plan to destroy taxi driving as a somewhat viable occupation giving Bloomberg a ludicrous "Union Label" and Desai her dream office and involuntary dues payers. The public is told that the drivers have a union and benefits both of which are lies.

Taxi drivers are capable of organizing sporadic and attention grabbing actions. These date back to the taxi driver Times Square riots of  March 23 & 27, 1934. There was local 3036 founding strike with much non driver muscle behind it. The fleets represented half the driver force and the fleets signed with 3036 under Van Arsdale's iron fist.

In 1986 drivers led by owner drivers staged a brief strike for a fare increase. The strike began literally with a bang as a fleet owned taxi was destroyed by an explosion in the early hours of July 4 1986. Fleets kept their cars off the streets that day but the protest sputtered and died on July 5. I happen to have been an organizer of that strike. It won nothing btw.

So Desai may get her office, her government collected " dues" of $15 million a year and no doubt the world will then call her leader of the taxi driver union in New York. I will always know her as a backstabbing thief.