On the Creation of the National Taxi Workers Alliance
By Bhairavi Desai (2011)
The taxi bosses have had a national trade association since 1917 – just ten years after the gasoline-powered taxicab came to the U.S. To this day, they hold lavish annual conventions and trade shows and, in their first order of business, they meet with our regulators. Money meets politics meets labor exploitation.
In 2011, the National Taxi Workers Alliance was born to crush the chains that bind hundreds of thousands of taxi workers across this nation. The bosses and regulators have their associations, their legacies, their eras. This is all ours.
NTWA, with chapters already in New York City and Philadelphia, will work two-fold: new organizing in strategic cities and capacity building where drivers have organization and seek to consolidate their memberships. We will build national campaigns for critical issues such as protection on the job; economic justice; and health and wellness from our labor; due process rights in industry courts; and an end to the constant degrading of our dignity and work. NTWA will provide tangible resources and moral support to our brothers and sisters engaged in work stoppages and strikes. We will also engage in regular and comprehensive research to analyze the changing and multiple structures of the industry.
The role of the National is to embolden the local. Each week, NTWA officers have already been strategizing with local leaders around key campaigns and organizing drives. From city to city, each of us is fighting a wealthy industry deeply entrenched in local politics. They have money and they have time. The majority of our campaigns are defensive and all hands are needed on deck. As cities gather all of their resources to advance campaigns or defeat attacks, the NTWA will work parallel on membership recruitment, dues development and institution-building. As we develop, we will hold an annual conference. Regular communication across cities will be challenging given the varied nature of each city’s resources and the long hours of drivers labor. But we recognize that, to grow as one, we must flourish together, and so conference calls will be maintained with precision.
NTWA will hold an unwavering commitment to multi-ethnic, multi-generational organizing that fights the social ills of worker division: racism, ethnic chauvinism, sexism. Our vision for mass-based, numbers-strong, democratic, forward-thinking, for-and-by-drivers-only organizations will remain one. Our understanding about strategies and programs for transformative change will remain varied and dynamic. Over 200,000 taxi workers operating over 100,000 vehicles serving over one billion riders per year seek power through one unified, bold, democratic, forward-thinking organization. NTWA is our ride home.