Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!

New York Taxi Workers Strike Over Tracking Devices

It was a good day to ride your bike in the Big Apple. New York City cabbies launched a two-day strike on September 6, leaving the city’s streets quiet and would-be passengers scrambling. Taxi workers were protesting a plan to install new technology into the city’s yellow cabs, a move they said would hurt both passengers and drivers.

The strike was called by the 8,000-member New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), an organization representing cab drivers across the city.

City officials were quick to downplay the impact of the strike, calling it a minor inconvenience. Mayor Bloomberg claimed only 20 percent of the city’s cabs were idled by the strike. But organizers report that 90 percent of drivers stayed away from work during the strikes first day, based on early morning traffic out of the major taxi garages located in Queens.

By the afternoon a trickle of yellow cabs appeared in Manhattan hot spots like Times Square, but passengers were greeted by long lines, and an impromptu system of shared rides and flat fares. The New York Times reported that passengers arriving at the city’s airports waited up to half an hour for a taxi, up from a typical wait of five minutes.

“Just look in the streets,” said striker David Salazar, who has been a cab driver for 12 years. “There’s almost nobody out in Manhattan and the lots are empty at LaGuardia and JFK [New York’s two major airports].”

The current controversy escalated in May when the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), the municipal agency that oversees New York’s cab operations, approved a plan to install global positioning system (GPS) systems, touch screen monitors, and credit card readers in the city’s entire fleet of yellow cabs.

Installations were scheduled to begin October 1, with all cabs expected to be equipped with the new technology by February 2008. Many drivers, however, have taken a dim view of the plan-particularly since they’ve been required to foot the bill for the new systems.

“This is not a navigation system,” Salazar said of the GPS technology. “It won’t help passengers or drivers get where they are going. It’s all about advertising.” Backseat video monitors are currently designed to play commercials and movie trailers on a continuous loop.

Salazar continued: “Why is the city forcing us to put credit card readers into our cabs? They aren’t forcing any other businesses in the city to accept credit cards. It should be optional.”

Muhammad Hossain, a 17-year veteran in the industry, concurred: “This is about making money. The people who will benefit are the companies selling the systems. They cost $4,000 to install, and up to $175 a month in maintenance fees. That is all money out of our pocket.”

Hossain also said that the credit card machines are unreliable. He explained: “They are like cell phones. Sometimes they get a signal, sometimes they don’t. We’ll lose at least one or two trips every shift with these machines, not to mention the 5 percent transaction fee they will take off the top of every fare.”

On the eve of the strike, tensions escalated, sometimes turning violent. Dipak Ghosh, a taxi driver with five years on the job, was assaulted by a TLC inspector Tuesday afternoon after dropping a passenger off at the Port Authority bus terminal. Said Ghosh: “[The inspector] said I didn’t record going off-duty in my trip sheet. Then he dragged me out of the car and threw me on the ground like he was going to arrest me.”

Ghosh walked Wednesday’s picket wearing a ripped t-shirt, evidence of his run-in the day before. He said: “It was clear he was harassing me because of the strike plans. I wasn’t involved [with plans for the strike] before, but now I realized we have to be united to survive. If they can do this to me, they can do this to anybody.”

As the strike entered its second day strike supporters reported growing participation among drivers. NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said: “The strike is in full effect. It’s empty at the airport taxi lots, empty on the streets, and at the garages. Drivers have held strong.”

MARK BRENNER works as Labor Notes ( director in New York City. He can be reached at


More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day