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
media@nytwa.org / nytwa1@aol.com