New York Taxi Workers Alliance Records

NYTWA logoDate Range: 19982009
Survey Conducted: Thu, 2009-04-23
Creator: New York Taxi Workers Alliance

History: The New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) was founded in 1998 by members of the Lease Drivers Coalition (LDC), an advocacy project of the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV). The union fights for structural change in the taxi driving industry, ranked by the Department of Labor as the most dangerous job in the country, and supports individual drivers through comprehensive services and advocacy efforts for economic justice, safety and health rights.

Four months after their formation, in May 1998, the NYTWA organized a 24-hour strike of nearly 40,000 licensed taxi drivers in protest of proposed Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) regulations that would quadruple liability-insurance costs, dramatically increase fines, and force new drivers to submit to an increased probationary period as well as drug and alcohol testing. Their demands included a moratorium of the new rules, an in-depth study of the taxi industry and an end to double ticketing. On September 5th, 2007, the union organized a 48-hour strike in protest of TLC-mandated implementation of GPS systems in taxis. In 2008, the union fought to end lease cap violations, a campaign which ended successfully with a favorable court ruling in March 2009.

Since its founding, the NYTWA claims it has increased taxi drivers’ incomes by 35%-45%, including implementation of the first-ever Living Wage standard for US taxi drivers in 2004. Other victories include negotiating the inclusion of taxi drivers in 9/11 federal disaster assistance; recovering lost income due to unlawful license suspensions; changing numerous anti-worker policies and regulations governing the taxi industry; and providing discounted or pro bono legal, financial management, and health services. The NYTWA currently has over 43,000 members, a majority of whom are South Asian. Bhairavi Desai has been the Executive Director of the union since its founding. The NYTWA was voted into the New York City Central Labor Council in 2007 as the first non-collective bargaining agent member of a Central Labor Council in the USA. Together with the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, the union hosted the founding conference of the International Taxi Workers Alliance in 2007, a union spanning thirty cities in three continents.

Sources: Mathew, Biju. Taxi!: Cabs and Capitalism in New York City. New York: The New Press, 2005.

“Mission and History.” New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Accessed February 4, 2015.

Kolsky, Elizabeth. “Less Successful Than the Next: South Asian Taxi Drivers in New York City.” South Asia Graduate Research Journal 5.1 (Spring 1998).

Summary: The New York Taxi Workers Alliance collection totals 62 linear feet and consists of materials documenting its campaigning, benefits and services, and membership development functions.

Materials documenting NYTWA’s campaign work constitutes the bulk of the collection and includes minutes and agendas from its organizing committee, strategy documents, flyers, posters, photographs, press clippings, press kits, and magazines and journals. Photographs range in date from 1998-2007, with the bulk taken in 2002, 2006, and 2007. These mostly depict events, rallies, taxi drivers and union staff. A portion of the collection’s press clippings, mostly clipped from small local English-language New York papers, have been arranged chronologically into 5 volumes and range in date from 1998 to 2006. The magazines and journals contain articles on or related to NYTWA campaign issues it espouses and are largely leftist in political orientation. These range in date from 2006 to 2007 and include The Nation, New Yorker, In These Times, The Economist, and Khabar. Included also are issues of Taxi Talk, New York City’s largest industry newspaper, and Taxi Insider, published by the Committee for Taxi Safety.

Documenting the union’s provision of benefits and services are approximately 10 linear feet of advocacy legal case files relating to various cases NYTWA filed on behalf of members and 4 linear feet of DMV tickets relating to their City Hall legislation campaign. These range in date from 1998-2008. Their campaign to expand FEMA eligibility for lower Manhattan applicants is documented through 3 linear feet of research files and surveys on the impact of 9/11 on taxi drivers. There are also materials relating to its safety campaign, initiated in response to a high incidence of assaults against its members in 2005, and its healthcare fairs, held for members at various years at JFK and La Guardia airports.

Membership development is highly entwined with its campaign and member advocacy work and thus many materials overlap. These consist of membership forms, surveys of drivers, and call lists.

Electronic files duplicate most of the analog information and mostly pertain to campaign-related materials. There is correspondence, flyers, press releases, membership forms, call lists, healthcare fair material, along with other materials.

Total Size: 62 linear feet (62 boxes)
APA-related Size: 62 linear feet (62 boxes)
Languages of materials: English
Arrangement: other
Location: Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University
Bibliographic Control: finding aid
Finding Aid Link:
Conditions Governing Access: Contact repository for detailed information on conditions governing access.

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