Taxis Fund Transit, a Letter to the Mayor and the City Council Speaker

We understand from the media that Uber has submitted a letter on their contributions to mass transit.  Here are the facts.

Taxis Fund Transit

Through the MTA’s collection of a 50-cent per-trip surcharge and other taxes and fees, yellow taxis contribute far more to State and City coffers than Uber. And while the bulk of taxes collected by taxis directly goes to the MTA, only a sliver of the sales tax amounts collected by Uber fund public transit.

Each yellow and green taxi trip includes a fifty cent tax that directly funds the MTA, while the 8.875% sales tax on black car trips almost entirely goes into State and City general funds. The general sales tax that consumers pay in New York City is really three taxes: a 4% state sales tax, a 4.5% New York City sales tax, and a .375% tax within counties that have MTA service. Only the 0.375% sales tax on each black car fare goes to the MTA.

Additionally, drivers who lease their taxis end up paying another $4.77 in sales tax on the lease of a cab for a twelve-hour shift. Of that $4.77, $1.20 goes entirely to the MTA.

In one day, a double-shifted taxi that makes 25 trips per shift collects $34.54 in tax revenue, of which $27.40 directly funds the MTA. One the other hand, in one day of full-time work, an Uber car may bring in $20 in general sales tax, handing over only $0.75 to the MTA.

An individual lease driver who averages 250 shifts a year pays $1,192.50 in the sales tax on the lease; and at an average of 25 fares per shift, generates $3,125 through the fifty cents, without any compensation on gasoline for each trip.

Additionally, in licensing fees, vehicle taxes, and other surcharges, taxis contribute significantly more than for-hire vehicles. Each taxicab must pay a bi-annual $1,650 renewal fee, and a Commercial Motor Vehicle Tax (CMVT) of $1,000. Each black car, on the other hand, pays a $275 annual fee for a for-hire vehicle license, and a $400 annual CMVT amount. And while each taxi trip also collects 30 cents to help fund the City's transition to a 50% wheelchair accessible taxi fleet, Uber has no wheelchair-accessible vehicles affiliated with any of its bases.

Of course, the Uber way is not to pay any taxes anywhere.  That’s why Uber has been lobbying across the country for novel legal status as a “Transportation Network Company” (TNC), outside of existing classifications for commercial vehicles and for-hire transportation regulations, just as they are doing in Albany right now. We have also read in the media that Uber would be “ok” with the black car sales tax going entirely toward the MTA and so basically defunding the other public services currently supported by the sales tax revenue.  Wow, how generous of them to say schools, fire houses, and precincts can take a backseat.  This is obviously a horrible self-serving notion and though it’s hard to imagine you are taking it seriously, we formally ask you to not entertain it. 

Download the PDF here

NYTWA Response to David Plouffe and Comptroller Stringer

"Just this morning, Uber's David Plouffe proudly proclaimed on CBS This Morning that the "vast majority of Uber drivers, they or their spouse have other full-time employment."  That pretty much sums up Uber's jobs creation:  if you have another job already, then you can make money on the side through Uber.  But don't expect to raise a family on Uber income alone.  This proliferation of part-time work comes at the expense of drivers already working full-time on the job.  And it justifies for Uber why there should be an unending number of vehicles.  If you only create part-time work, then you can lower incomes, have unending competition, and fragment the work day and call that flexibility.

Mr. Plouffe also claimed that "taxi drivers, limo drivers, almost all of them are independent contractors, so it's no different than the Uber model."  Wrong.  Across the country, where limo and taxi drivers lose a commission of their earnings to a company, are directly dispatched and have other levels of control - they have been found to be employees.  Uber is looking to dismantle these gains by workers and using Walmart's top notch anti-worker lawfirm - Gibson Dunn Ted Boutrous, Jr. which defended Walmart in their attempt to defeat class certification in, Walmart Stores v. Dukes,  a gender discrimination suit filed by a group of women of color - to do it.

Uber has also been trumpeting discussions to abolish national labor laws and describing them as antiquated in the eyes of Uber innovators - not because they don't cover the millions of workers who've been misclassified through the years, but because of the workers they do still protect.

Would Comptroller Stringer call Walmart innovative for retail service, put their growth above other policy concerns, then say we need to look into the working conditions and call that helpful to workers?  Because that's the pass he gave to Uber.

Workers struggling to make ends meet - something getting harder with more congestion and unending competition - shouldn't be an after-thought.  We have been clear from day one:  unending congestion undercuts driver incomes in all sectors.  Let the cap be a start to at least address an immediate issue."

Uber: Wal-Mart on Wheels? | Bhairavi Desai on GRITtv 2/17/15: 

Bhairavi Desai
Executive Director

Taxi Workers and Allies Rally and Press Conference for FHV Cap

Media Contacts:
Stuart Marques 917.273.6194
Renata Pumarol 646.462.9281

Media Advisory for Monday, July 20th, 1 p.m.


Coalition to target $40 billion Uber for exploiting workers, cheating customers, worsening traffic, and shirking responsibilities to disabled riders, MTA users

WHO: Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez, New York Taxi Workers Alliance, International Association of Machinists, Central Labor Council, Transport Workers Local 100, New York Communities for Change, The Black Institute, Make the Road New York, workers, advocates and supporters.
WHAT: A press conference on Uber’s destructive economic model and the self-serving race strategy and fictitious jobs claims used to promote it.  Ubernomics recasts taxi driving income as supplemental income, justifying low-wages and relentless competition between drivers on the streets.  All the while, profits keep rising for Uber’s billionaire hedge fund backers.  Taxi drivers and their allies are calling on the City Council to pass common-sense regulation to temporarily limit the issuance of new FHV (for-hire-vehicle) permits while an environmental impact study of the current 66,000 black cars – 66% more than just four years ago - is conducted.   
WHERE: City Hall steps, Lower Manhattan.
WHEN: Monday July 20, 1 p.m.
WHY:  Highly paid lobbyists – Uber has 250 nationwide, or one-third more than Wal-Mart - are leading its charge against a bill that would temporarily limit the number of black car and livery vehicle licenses by falsely claiming that it would hurt communities of color and leave the outer boroughs underserved. 72% of Uber trips are in the Manhattan's central business district.  Currently, over 30,000 yellow taxi and Uber drivers – 94% immigrant - are just scraping by, all competing in congested streets for limited fares.  If allowed to go unchecked, Uber would sign-up 10,000 more workers – underpaid at other full-time jobs - to compete for the scraps, earning take home pay lower than employees at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart, as congestion and competition would put all drivers in the race to the bottom.  Ubernomics is not the answer to underemployment; uplifting low-wage workers and protecting full-time work is the only way forward.


NYTWA Support Memo on Proposed Environmental Impact Study on Growth of FHVs (Intro 0847) and Limited Moratorium on FHV Vehicle Licenses (Intro 0842)

We are in strong support of a limited moratorium on the issuance of new vehicle permit licenses for FHVs - which, unlike medallion yellow taxis and street-hail-liveries are not capped. A study on the environmental impact must also include how the explosion in the number of FHVs - over 60% compared to just four years ago - has affected the drivers who now face unprecedented competition for the same number of fares, all the while working in gridlock that grows worse every month.

Read NYTWA's full support memo here

NYTWA Strongly Supports FHV and Taxi Environmental Impact Study and Moratorium On New Vehicle Permits During the Study Period

For Immediate Release:  June 23rd, 2015
Contact: 718-706-9892 or or

NYTWA responds to proposed bills from Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Councilman Stephen Levin.

Statement from Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director, New York Taxi Workers Alliance (18,000-member union of Yellow Taxi, Green Cab, and Uber Drivers)

“For months, we have seen drivers in all sectors lose income because of the saturation of vehicles.  With 25,000 FHVs affiliated with Apps and 13,600 yellow medallion taxis, you now have essentially close to 40,000 taxis and black cars all competing in Manhattan during the same limited prime hours.  No one can move around.  

And there are only so many hours that anyone can earn their primary fares:  AM and PM rush hours, weekend nights.  You can’t complete a fare fast enough to pick up the next one.  And especially for yellow taxis which run on the meters, drivers earn less money when stuck in traffic.  The meter fare is highest at the drop of $2.50, so you earn the most by picking up a high number of fares.  

The cars are spending more time idling in traffic and just cruising.  Drivers are working more hours for less income, paying more for gasoline and facing greater health risks such as kidney failure, back pain and respiratory illnesses.  

Cities like San Francisco are now paying a high price for having had no similar study or vehicle limitations.  In 2012, SF was not in the top 25 most polluted US Cities.  In 2013, it was not there. In 2014, for the first time in recent history, SF entered the list at number 9 on one count – short-term particle pollution.  In 2015, SF has entered on 2 counts – number 7 on long-term or year round particle pollution and number 6 on short-term.  Add to this, SF now ranks as the second most congested US city.”

Citations regarding San Francisco:

(Statement PDF)

NTWA on CA Labor Commission Ruling - Uber Drivers are Employees

For Immediate Release:  June 17, 2015

For More Information, Please Contact:
National Taxi Workers Alliance:  Melanie Lindauer, or 718-706-9892
San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance: Kim Waldron, or 415-264-2101

Taxi Workers Respond to California Labor Commission  
Game Changer Ruling:
Uber Drivers Are Employees

Decision Affirms That the Law is Catching Up to Uber

San Francisco Drivers Ready for Uber Showdown at
National Mayor's Conference

"California Labor Commission's Ruling today that Uber drivers are employees and entitled to protections under the law is empowering, gratifying and foretelling:  finally, a set of laws Uber has not been allowed to violate or skirt.  There is no doubt that more drivers will stand up, more states will verify their employee status, and all will boil over into federal rulings on drivers' right to collectively organize without retaliation or fear", said Bhairavi Desai, President of the National Taxi Workers Alliance.
This could have a game changing impact on a company that profiteers from breaking laws and cutting costs.  Uber has left markets when required to carry insurance standards still subservient to taxis and for-hire-vehicles, but higher than their lobbying goals.  On the other hand, a decision affirming drivers' rights in the share-the-scraps economy may be the wake up call to require consumer rights as well.
The decision comes on the eve of the National Mayor's Conference where San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has pulled out the red carpet for Uber to wine and dine.  The San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance is organizing actions throughout the conference, including a picket line in front of Uber Headquarters on June 22nd challenging Mayors to stand out the tour and stand instead with grieved workers.
The California Labor Commission's decision is consistent with findings by both state commissions and federal regulators that indeed for-hire-vehicle companies which, among other factors, dispatch fares, set the rates, and discipline at will, indeed exert control over drivers' working conditions and as such, the driver is entitled to employee benefits such as Unemployment Insurance or protections to collectively organize.  If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.
"In their quest to maximize commissions on each dispatch, the Silicon Valley companies have refused to abide by bare minimum commercial licensing requirements, never mind the long-established laws for taxis and FHVs regarding insurance, vehicle standards, accessibility, driver security background checks and trainings, and price protection.  And at several steps, they have been enabled by legislators complicit in selling out drivers, riders and their own constituents at a loss from the lack of local tax revenue", said San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance Board Member and veteran driver Kamaljeet Singh.

"Uber has wreaked havoc on the lives of hundreds of thousands of taxi and black car drivers across this country; felt more poignantly nowhere other than in their home state of California, by their very neighbors.  To have a decision upholding worker protections in the share-the-scraps economy come out of California, is a light at the end of a dreary dark tunnel which has left thousands of taxi drivers impoverished and battle-worn", added SFTWA Board Member Chakib Ayadi.


June 9th! Taxis Caravan to Albany to Say No to TNCs & Protect Full-Time Jobs!

For Immediate Release:  June 8th, 2015
Contact: or

NYC Taxi and FHV Drivers Caravan to Albany to Protect Full-Time Jobs
Drivers Call on Albany Lawmakers to Vote Down TNCs

Tuesday, June 9th
Caravan Send-Off:  7:30am AT 31-10 37th Avenue, Long Island City (NYC)
& 8:30am AT 2500 Bailey Avenue, Bronx


Caravan around State Capitol Building & Press Conference
12noon AT Front of Capitol Building, State Street (Albany)


Hundreds of New York Taxi Workers Alliance members, taxi and for-hire-vehicle drivers, are holding a motorcade to Albany to oppose legislation to carve out a special place in state law for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), allowing companies like Uber to dispatch directly to unlimited numbers of private motorists with personal cars and insurance.  The model has been banned in 40% of the countries where they claim to have presence, and increasingly, across the United States.  The proposed bills would make acceptance of TNCs a requirement in every part of the state, even if the local authority wants to ban them.  Cities would also be prohibited by state law from requiring TNCs to have collision insurance at all times, process security background checks for drivers through New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services, meet the state’s “reasonable and just” law for quoting fares, or even inspect their cars on the streets.  Since the cars and drivers would not be considered commercial, the state and municipalities could also not charge fees and taxes commonly collected from taxis and for-hire vehicles.  

Although state law makers have a provision in the bill which says TNCs are not authorized in NYC, the country’s biggest market for regulated taxi service, the bill still exempts TNCs from state law that gives authority to local governments to regulate taxi and for-hire-vehicle industries.  The bills also exempt TNCs from the long-standing reciprocal agreement between New York City and Nassau, Westchester, Rockland and Suffolk Counties to set minimum requirements for taxis and for-hire vehicles and drivers that would cross county lines.  Local authorities would be required to allow TNCs even if NYC is not.  NYC would be required to accept drop-offs by TNC drivers with lower standards than licensed NYC taxi and for-hire-vehicle drivers.

“Riders will lose all kinds of protection - safety, insurance, accessibility, and a fair price.  For drivers, this (letting Apps dispatch directly to private motorists with personal cars) is the biggest threat to full-time work in this industry.  Drivers need several Apps to put together a whole day’s income, because the companies depend on part-time labor and a saturation of vehicles.  Already in NYC, we’re seeing incomes drop for drivers from all the segments – yellow, green, livery and black car, including Uber drivers.  If the TNC bills pass, the streets will be flooded and no one will be able to move around or earn proper day’s earnings for themselves,” said Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of NYTWA.  The taxi industry in San Francisco, where the Silicon Valley are headquartered, is in danger of virtual collapse, with fares down over 65% overall.  The city’s regulator warned that passengers in need for wheel-chair accessible service could be hurt the most in the shift to App-based hailing.  

“We can’t afford to lose our jobs,” said Nancy Soria of Green Taxis of New York.  “We do this for a living, it’s not a gig.  Already, the streets are crowded everywhere, not just in Manhattan.”

Lal Singh, a 30-year veteran, said drivers are working longer hours in their 12-hour shifts but seeing less earnings.  Taxi owner-drivers who own the medallion have to earn back $5,000 in monthly payments before making a living for themselves.  “It’s hardly possible right now.  And the new cars keep coming.  Our future is very uncertain right now, very dark.”

Several states, such as Hawaii, Michigan, West Virginia and Kansas have banned the service, and several others like Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania are holding off on legislation.  Drivers are hopeful that New York will follow. 

NYTWA Statement: NY State Appeals Court Strikes Down Historic Taxi Driver Healthcare and Disability Fund

With a heavy heart, I share the news: The New York State Appellate Division ruled today to uphold the trial Judge's decision to strike down our historic Healthcare and Disability Fund.  I won't lie to you brothers and sisters, this really hurts.  It's a stinging loss.  I think of my friends, my teachers, my fellow warriors who we lost to failing health and the wear and tear of this exhausting job and it breaks my heart that their lives didn't matter to the fleet owners who financed the lawsuits, the trial Judge who coldly wrote, "If a driver needs disability, it begs the question why were they licensed in the first place," a city administration who stalled the contract for months before the lower level decision, and now a panel of New York's Appellate Division justices, declaring for taxi workers, there is no Justice.

It makes me sick to my core that fleet owners lied to the drivers for months about the Fund - claiming it was only to help you sign up for Obamacare, when there were significant, real benefits for drivers and our families for the first-time in thirty years under leasing, a system where rich bosses are made wealthier and poor workers bear all the risks.  They never got it, you know.  They never understood that taking care of drivers who have enriched them doesn't threaten their wealth or their power.  It's just the right thing to do.  They never understood that building up the morale of drivers boosts their own industry.

I don't know one single driver whose Disability Claim was honored by any fleet or agent.  But I can tell you countless stories of the drivers - injured or ill from cancer, kidney failure, heart attacks - whose applications have been turned away, tossed out.  I'll never forget when the fleet owners' lawyer, with such sarcasm in his voice, said we exaggerated the need for the Fund talking about drivers being maimed.  I honest to God just wanted to scream.  I wanted the court to know the names of Beresford Simmons and Sajjad Matin and Javaid Khan and Vivian Borges and so so many others.  I wanted them to know these were PEOPLE whose lives he was disparaging. This wasn't just one more case.

For every driver who has ever said, we don't get respect on this job, this benefits fund was the beginning to changing that tide.  We would have an institution reminding the TLC and the industry that drivers' health and welfare matter and injured workers are not disposable.  Concretely, $350 per week for Disability, up to 26 weeks, is a significant benefit.  And this was just the beginning.  When I told him the news, my Husband said, so the TLC can collect 30 cents to help fleet owners pay for a car, but not 6 cents for the human being, the driver?  It says it all, really.  Where is the Justice?  I want to cry and I want to scream.

The only thing I don't want to do is give up.  Even if we go screaming and crying, for 19 years, we have left so many footsteps in the mighty march toward Justice, even eyes closed, we will know how to get there.  But brothers and sisters, we can only do it together.  I don't want these to be the values that win out in our world.  And I don't want us to be the people who lose out.  Taxi drivers serve a million people every day.  Your labor generates over $85 million in revenue for the MTA.  This Fund was just the start of what you all should have, what every worker on this earth, should have.  Walk with me.  Walk with us.  Eyes wide open, know your power and demand your rights.  The City Council can legislate benefits for every single taxi driver.  We cannot give up until they do.

Love and Peace,

Bhairavi Desai /

Taxi and Black Car Drivers Speak Out on Video of Detective Berating Fellow Driver and Call for Policing Reforms

For Immediate Release:  April 3, 2015
For more information, please contact: Bhairavi Desai: 718-706-9892 or

Taxi and Black Car Drivers Speak Out on Video of Detective Berating Fellow Driver and Call for Policing Reforms

Friday, April 3, 2015 at 11:00am
Corner of 31st Street and 7th Avenue, Penn Station

Taxi and Black Car Drivers and community allies rally for systemic changes to NYPD policing of drivers, most recently brought to light in a video where Detective Patrick Cherry was caught berating a black car driver, threatened arrest and summonsed Mr. Humayun for three moving violations.  Detective Cherry was stripped of his badge and gun after the video made by the passengers went viral on social media.  New York Taxi Workers Alliance and United We Stand say they are gathering to tell the story of what happens when there is no video to capture their plight.
“In the face of Mr. Humayun, we see the faces of over 100,000 licensed taxi, black, green and livery cab drivers.  The day to day story for drivers is the economic impact that follows racist, humiliating incidents like this.  The driver would go to court over unjustly issued moving violations and be vulnerable to over $1,000 in fines and points on the license.  With just six points, the TLC license is suspended up to 30 days and with 10 or more, the license is revoked and drivers are banned from re-entry for three years.  Hundreds of drivers lose their livelihood every single year because of unfair ticketing for non-safety violations,” said New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai.
"As drivers we are working long hours for minimal pay to help our families and serve this city.  Unjustified summonses and tickets are constantly being imposed on us. This has to stop,” demanded Syed Armughan, of United We Stand, a black car drivers’ organization.
Organizers said they selected Penn Station for their action as it’s especially fraught with unfair ticketing.  “I know drivers who got tickets every time they were here to drop off a fare and some were even revoked because of those tickets.  When the police pull us over all the time, it puts in the public’s mind that drivers are dangerous.  But we are the safest drivers on the street and we are hard-working people.  We look to the police for protection, no one should have to work in fear from them,” said Asim Akhtar who has been driving a taxi for 10 years.
The drivers were joined in support by community allies who said the anti-immigrant tirade resonated all too well with the larger South Asian community.  “We want the NYPD to know that the community stands with the workers in this industry and echoes their demand for an end to the harassment and all-too-common demonizing of taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers,” said Ali Najmi, Political Director of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor (ASAAL).


National TWA Joint Statement with ITF Urges UN Women to Reject Partnership with Uber

For Immediate Release: March 12th 2015

UN Women + Uber = A Vision for Precarious Work

NEW YORK On March 10th UN Women and UBER announced a strategic partnership with the goal of accelerating economic opportunity for women. As part of their commitment to this goal, Uber pledge to create 1,000,000 jobs for women as drivers on the Uber platform by 2020.

The global trade unions and civil society supporters of labour rights present at UNCSW59 are deeply concerned by the partnership announced between UN Women and Uber, an American International company that develops, markets and operates a mobile app-based transportation network. This concern is due to the fact that it is far from certain that Uber’s promise to create 1 million jobs will actually promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

Women’s economic empowerment is dependent on women’s access to decent work – this means fair wages, job security, safety at work, social protection for families, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives, and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

Uber's own research revealed drivers’ average annual earnings of USD 15,000 and a proliferation of part-time work, in what former Clinton Labour Secretary Robert Reich calls the share-the-scraps economy. By classifying drivers as ‘independent contractors’, Uber denies them basic protections, from minimum wage pay to health care and other benefits on the job. Women already make up a high proportion of the precarious workforce, and increasing informal, piecemeal work contributes significantly to women’s economic dis-empowerment and marginalization across the globe.

The creation of one million precarious, informal jobs will not contribute to women’s economic empowerment and represents exactly the type of structural inequality within the labour market that the women’s movement has been fighting for decades. Uber’s practices are defined by an aggressive informalisation of an industry that was already deregulated three decades ago.

We also note with alarm the proliferation of news stories and reports of passenger assaults by Uber drivers (according to research by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), there were nine cases in the US alone last year); customer frustrations over surge prices; complaints of union busting; and questions around breaches of privacy for users and drivers, as well as some journalists. Uber drivers are amateur drivers using their private vehicles who are unprotected in an industry where a worker is 20 times more likely to be killed at work than other jobs, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US Department of Labour (OSHA).

Corporate social responsibility must include respect for the laws and regulations that govern industry and employment standards, including workers’ rights, job security, health and safety, and environment. Yet Uber clearly state that as a third-party taxi app provider, they and do not accept any responsibility as a taxi operator. Uber claims to operate in 55 countries around the world. According to research by the ITF, almost 40% of national or local governments in these countries have said "no" to Uber in one way or another. Specific reasons vary from city to city and country to country, but are based on clear evidence of Uber not respecting laws and regulations that govern the taxi industry.

Global unions, including the ITF and unions that operate in the taxi sector are not against innovation. But we firmly believe that no-one is above the law if they want a share of the taxi business. No company can make serious commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment while simultaneously undermining those goals through their business and employment practices. Women deserve better than a shallow public relations exercise and part-time jobs in the shadow economy.

We urge UN Women to urgently reconsider this partnership with Uber.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)
Canadian Teachers’ Federation
Center for Women's Global Leadership
Education International (EI)
FKTU, Korea
FTTUB, Bulgaria
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)
JASS Just Associates
Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union (KPTU)
National Taxi Workers’ Alliance
Public Services International (PSI)
The Solidarity Center
United Steelworkers-Metallos
Water Employees Trade Union of Malawi (WETUM)
Women in Europe for a Common Future

If your organisation would like to sign-up to this statement, please send an email to

Download this statement here.

Also see UN Women Dumps Uber Amid Global Union Criticism