Several of New York’s prominent unions have signed up in support of taxi drivers who have launched a week-long hunger strike outside City Hall.
The goal of the hunger strike, which began on October 20, is to pressure Mayor Bill de Blasio to use the city’s money to limit their debt to $ 145,000.
Drivers are plagued by massive debt after the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission deliberately misled them into taking out loans to buy high-cost taxi medals over 12 years, ending with Uber’s explosive growth in 2014. New York City collected $ 855 million from these . medallion sale, stated the Attorney General’s office.
In an open letter to the mayor, which was shared with The Post on Tuesday, prominent unions, including 1199SEIU, SEIU 32BJ and the New York City Central Labor Council, approved the hunger-striking cabbies’ proposal, which the New York Taxi Workers Alliance claims would cost the city 93 million dollars over 30 years.
“These workers have put decades of work behind the wheel, and many rightly expected to begin a dignified retirement today. Instead, as we write this letter to you, some of these workers have been on hunger strike for over a week, sleeping in their taxis right outside the town hall, ”the letter said.
The unions also supported NYTWA’s call to the city to “guarantee” each driver’s debt – protecting the driver from the financial consequences of defaulting on the loan.
Other unions that have signed the letter include CWA District 1, Teamsters Joint District Council 16, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, UFCW Local 1500, New York State Nurses Association and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
The mayor and TLC officials are protesting NYTWA’s proposal, arguing that the city’s own debt relief program – launched since September – has already handed out millions of dollars to help drivers make low monthly payments.
They also point to data showing recent increases in taxi fares and driver income as evidence of potential for a recovery in the medallion market.
De Blasio did not close the door on NYTWA’s plan when asked about it at a news conference on Friday, but defended the TLC program, which according to city figures has reduced the debt of 173 drivers by a total of $ 21.4 million.
“We have worked hard to find a solution. We worked with the city council, which adopted our budget, including the relief for taxi drivers,” he said. “We have something right now that can help them, and I want everyone to drivers benefit from this. We will continue to look at other tools, other ways we can help. “
But NYTWA’s CEO, Bhairavi Desai, said the TLC’s program still leaves drivers with monthly payments too large to earn a living.
“A driver who has to pay a monthly mortgage of $ 2,000 – which is allowed under the TLC plan – they will learn less than $ 10 an hour,” she said. “They are delusions. This is the same agency that inflated the value years ago. It seems they have learned nothing.”
“Under the city’s plan, really, TLC’s plan, it’s just not enough debt relief,” she said. “Thousands of drivers will be left with debts as high as between $ 300,000 and $ 500,000. Some even higher than that. They will still be under debt for life and earn below the minimum wage while paying it off.”