New York: Cab strike on the cards

Up to 7,000 taxi drivers in New York are scheduled to stage a two-day strike on September 5-6.

Submitted by Marshall on September 4, 2007

Cabbies opposed to plans to install credit card and video devices in cabs across the city’s fleet are planning to stage a two-day stoppage. The hi-tech video screens, which the city authorities want to have installed in every yellow cab, will allow passengers to watch TV, make payments with credit cards and watch the progress of their cab journey via a global satellite link.

Taxi workers say that continual heat and noise from televisions pose a major distraction while driving. Taking credit card payments could also see them out of pocket because of processing fees and potential loss of cash tips. Also, there are serious objections from cab drivers about their right to privacy: in future, all journeys will be logged and recorded via the GPS link.

The New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance (TWA), which represents about one-third of 20,000 active yellow cab drivers, has spent the last few days drumming up support for a strike. They reckon they have a lot of support: more than the mayor and his office, who are pushing through the plans, realise.

The TWA was set up in 1998 to support non-unionised cab drivers who are opposed to the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, which is headed by Republican Party activist Fernando Mateo. The rival cab drivers’ association has been actively encouraging its members not to strike. One yellow cab driver told the New York Times, “All of my friends are going to strike … I will lose money, but it’s okay with me because it’s solidarity with other drivers.”

New York authorities are rumoured to be considering allowing “livery” and pre-booked black cabs to pick up passengers off the street, in an effort to undermine the strike. They see the technology as making journeys easier for passengers.