Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Taxing Time for Chicago Cab Drivers

Cabdrivers Have Human Rights Too!

“Cabdrivers deserve a fair fare increase...”
Chicago Sun-Times Headline Commentary – 10/3/08

For months now Chicago's United Taxidrivers Community Council (UTCC) has worked to draw attention to the grim work and labor conditions of its members. AFSC’s Chicago office serves as a community ally of UTCC and provides technical assistance and support to this cab-driver led, grassroots organization. Chicago's increased cost of living, the national economic downturn and the daily and weekly expenses of driving a taxi in the city and its surrounding suburbs, have increased the financial hardship faced by the 10,000 taxi workforce.

This past April as fuel costs increased the City Council imposed a $1 gas surcharge. However, the gas surcharge was conditional, only provided temporary relief and was then passed on to passengers and customers. UTCC has noted that the gas surcharge bears no relation to a revision of current fare rates which would provide substantive economic relief. The gas surcharge was recently reduced and gradually eliminated altogether.

In early October the City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Public Way indicated its unwillingness to consider a fare increase for at least another year. UTCC has taken various steps to address this situation including sending a letter to the City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Public Way, urging for their support of a public hearing on the revision of the current fare rates.

Moreover, public opinion and increased media coverage point to support for a fare hike and solidarity with the city's taxidrivers. In a November 2008 letter to Mayor Richard M. Daley, Fayez Khozindar (UTCC board chair)wrote:

“...We have completed and we will be submitting over 1,300 signatures calling for a permanent 16% fare increase, and biennial review of the rates of fare thereafter. According to our statistics, cabdrivers are driving an average shift of 12 hours and 20 minutes, and earning a mere $5.77 an hour. Please consider that in the city of Chicago, birthplace of the 8-hour-day, many cabdrivers are working 14 hours a day.

We will do what it takes to catalyze the reforms that we need, but we wish to keep the city running smoothly. We are ready to strike, if our request for productive dialogue is not reciprocated -- but we hope that we will be offered a seat at the table, instead of being excluded from decision-making in matters that affect us, as in the past.”

UTCC also seeks a moratorium on the issuance of new city medallions, and an ongoing dialogue with the Department of Consumer Services and city officials to improve the industry’s labor conditions.

For further information on the AFSC and UTCC partnership contact Prateek Sampat at or at 312-427-2533.