From Organizing to Mobilizing: United Transportation Alliance Launches App-Based Taxi Service

Taxi riders in Newark, N.J., can now enjoy the convenience of using a cellphone app to book a cab while resting secure in the knowledge that the dispatched driver is licensed and insured, and that the vehicle they are about to get into has been inspected and regularly maintained.

The Transunion Car Service (TCS) is a joint venture of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1039, the United Transportation Alliance (UTA), which is a new affiliate of CWA Local 1039, and the New Jersey State AFL-CIO that is already 300 members strong.

UTA taxi drivers are benefiting already from the union’s many supports and protections, including access to a credit union, affordable legal assistance for traffic court, immigration support and health care, life insurance and pension benefits.

UTA is the fastest-growing multiethnic union in the state. Its mission is to transform the taxi industry.

The UTA’s board of directors has gone beyond organizing to establish Transunion Car Service, which combines the ease of booking a cab electronically with the security of knowing that driver and vehicle are fully licensed, regulated and insured.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Lionel Leach, president of CWA Local 1039. “TCS customers can get a cab easily and ride with peace of mind. TCS drivers are caring professionals and proud union members whose background, credentials and cars have been fully vetted.”

Transunion Car Service kicked off Friday in Newark. It is expected to be available in Atlantic City by the end of the month, and in Elizabeth and Hoboken by fall. Customers can visit the website www.ridetcs.com and download the app, or call 855-RIDE-TCS or 973-297-1111. Fares can be paid by credit card or cash.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Tell the Montgomery County Council to Pass a Passenger and Driver Bill of Rights

Tell the Montgomery County Council to Pass a Passenger and Driver Bill of Rights

Taxi drivers in Montgomery County, Md., work long hours and make barely above the minimum wage because the companies they work for charge them tens of thousands of dollars in fees each month. Fed up with this situation, these workers have proposed a Passenger and Driver Bill of Rights that would make sure drivers are paid a living wage, that they have basic workplace protections and are able to give their customers the best service possible. And they are working to get the County Council to pass the bill, which also would update the outdated dispatch system to improve service and convenience for riders and regulate companies like Uber.

In August, members of Montgomery County Professional Drivers Union (MCPDU) voted to affiliate with National Taxi Workers Alliance (NTWA). Taxi drivers in Montgomery County are labeled as independent contractors. Because of their independent status, the more than 800 licensed taxi drivers in Montgomery County are not protected by any wage and hour laws or workers’ compensation laws and have no health insurance, disability insurance or any form of retirement benefits.

MCPDU President Peter Ibik explains the need for the bill:

I’ve been a taxi driver for more than 16 years, and I work in Montgomery County, Md. I love my job, but it’s getting harder and harder to support my family by doing it.

In Montgomery County, like in a lot of other places across the country, taxi drivers have to pay a lot of excessive fees that the companies we work for, like Barwood Taxi, impose on us. These fees can be nearly $35,000, which means, by the time we get our paycheck, many of us barely make minimum wage even after working 16-hour days. But it doesn’t have to be that way….

The Passenger and Driver Bill of Rights is the right thing to do for everyone in Montgomery County. For drivers, many who work and live in the county, it would rein in the out of control fees we need to pay in order to do our job. It also would make sure we had protections against company managers who can now fire us without cause; and it would give us a voice, as workers, to hold companies accountable.

But it’s not only good for drivers like me. It would be good for riders like you, too. High fees have meant customers get saddled with higher costs, but this bill would stop that from happening. It also would ensure that every driver in Montgomery County was experienced and professional and that companies like Uber were regulated and played by the same rules as other taxi and limo services….

It’s a win-win for everyone. We just need to make sure that council members recognize that, too, and don’t give in to taxi company CEOs and lobbyists who are just looking to make as much money as they can off the backs of drivers.

Send a message to the members of the Montgomery County Council now.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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San Francisco Taxi Workers Vote to Unionize

Photo by Lynn Friedman/Flckr Creative Commons

San Francisco taxi drivers last week voted to form the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance (SFTWA) and affiliate with the National Taxi Workers Alliance (NTWA). They are the second group of taxi workers in recent weeks to join with NTWA following the Montgomery County (Md.) Professional Drivers Union’s affiliation.

Beth Powder, a driver for DeSoto Cab. Co., told the San Francisco Examiner:

Cabdrivers are very independent people, and that’s one of the beauties of this industry—that you have a diverse group of people who bring all these different elements to the table. Unfortunately, what it translates to for everybody else is that we can’t get together and find consensus. But we’ve done just that.

NTWA President Bhairavi Desai said:

San Francisco used to have progressive working conditions, in that every driver could earn a medallion and it was a very progressive model. But in the last 10 years, San Francisco has been faced with very bitter attacks, with [rideshares] being the latest of the attacks.

The 150 drivers who voted unanimously to form the SFTWA also pledged to mobilize to bring more drivers into the union.

San Francisco taxi workers were unionized before World War II, but by the late 1970s unions had faded. Mark Gruberg, 72, a taxi driver for 30 years who is still driving, told the Examiner:

There’s a new breath of life in unionism. And we in San Francisco are going to be part and parcel of that.

In a post on NTWA’s Facebook page about the San Francisco action, Javaid Tariq comments, “Taxi drivers are united all over the USA.”

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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