On April 28th, the New York Supreme Court – Appellate Division heard oral arguments on the city’s appeal of a devastating ruling in April 2014 to void the first-ever Taxi Drivers Healthcare Services and Disability Fund. The services were to be paid for by a collection of six cents per fare. Greater New York Taxi Association, a fleet owners’ group, admitted to financing the lawsuits against drivers’ benefits. NYTWA’s application to administer the fund won the contract after a highly competitive public process.
The trial Judge dismissed the case brought on by fleet owners and their insurance company allies to challenge NYTWA’s right to the contract. NYTWA proposed the creation of an independent, non-profit Taxi Workers Alliance Benefits Fund to administer a $350/weekly up to 26 weeks Disability Insurance (illness or off-duty injury; $300/weekly for part-timers) and 20 other benefits, including Vision, Dental, Hearing, Term Life and Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance, a 24-hour multi-lingual doctor’s hotline and mental health counseling, and more. Driver eligibility would be determined by the number of trips or fare bookings with 30,000 drivers expected to be provided direct benefits and all 50,000 hack holders to be served. The majority of the benefits, such as free exams and x-rays, are also for family members (spouse and dependents up to 26 years of age). The Fund is a historic step forward for a workforce that serves half a million fares a day and brings in $100 million a year to support the MTA, but has nothing for themselves.
Mayor DeBlasio filed an appeal immediately after Justice Margaret Chen voided the TLC’s six cents collection, writing “… a taxi driver applying for disability begs the question why were they licensed in the first place,” and wrongly saying that the Affordable Care Act provides disability insurance. The TLC stopped the six cents collection in April 2014 and has been holding the money in a separate account pending the decision.