Leasing as it has evolved since 1979 has been nothing more than a massive subsidy to medallion owners. Although the TLC guaranteed the medallion owners on-street taxi business in Manhattan and the Airports, they wanted more and got with the great scam of leasing. Comfortable medallion owners became rich. Drivers on the other hand lost their health insurance, pensions, even the employer-paid part of their social-security taxes. In 1980, $100 a day in the pocket was considered a good day for a driver. In 2000, a $100 day is still considered a good day. It is not insignificant that leasing was legitimized by the most corrupt commissioner in the history of the TLC. Drivers are still paying the price.
As a rule, drivers cannot afford health insurance. Consequently, drivers put off medical treatment until problems become emergencies. A driver, if lucky, may get Medicaid. Medallion owners talk about drivers having the “right” to pick their own insurance. No owner really believes that. No owner really believes that 12 hour shifts 7 days a week is good for either customers or drivers. But health and safety should not interfere with their profits. In 1936, the city established the medallion system and abolished leasing. We shouldn’t forget that leasing and gangsters went together. The TLC should know by now that the medallion owners will never buy a new cab, pay a driver a decent wage or pay an insurance claim without coercion. We are stuck with the leasing system for the near future. The TLC should at least guarantee that the drivers who after all produce the wealth should at least have a chance at something approaching a human life. In NYC, it is illegal for a carriage horse to be worked more than 8 hours a day. An owner of a carriage would face severe penalties including loss of his permit for overworking a horse. Drivers say that the owners treat them like animals. I guess the drivers are wrong.
-- By Kevin M. Fitzpatrick