New York Taxi Workers' Alliance

Award Recipients - 1999

Bhairavi Desai, Cofounder and Organizer


Bhairavi Desai and a committee of taxi workers formed the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) in February 1998 as an independent membership organization to address working conditions, work protection and other concerns.  New York City taxi drivers represents more than 90 countries and work 12 hours a day, six and seven days a week in the most dangerous job in the Untied States – most cabbies are killed per capita that police.
In April 1998, when the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) announced new rules that increased fines to drivers for minor violation, the NYTWA general membership voted to strike. They organized a strike with more than 40,000 licensed drivers with-holding their labor for a 24-hour period, making the first yellow cab strike in more than 20 years a stunning success.   Their demands included a moratorium over the new rules, an in-depth study of the taxi industry and an end to double ticketing, during the strike, NYTWA membership doubled to 1,400 general members.  
Since then, NYTWA has put in place health and legal service discount programs for members and has successfully advocated for relief from burdensome and inefficient TLC rules and practice.  Ms. Desai explains that the industry is undergoing a transformation as corporations merge, move out of the city and close down, putting thousands out of work.  At the moment, NYTWA is concentrating on organizing drivers for the coming battles.

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