Taxi Drivers Rally for Fare Hike and Healthcare Fund

“The drivers united will never be defeated!”

That was the rallying cry heard across City Hall Park early Wednesday afternoon as taxi drivers and union members briefed members of the media on why drivers deserve a raise.

The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) will vote Thursday on whether to approve a 17 percent fare hike, which would be the first raise for drivers in eight years. Included in the proposal is the little-discussed creation of a taxi driver’s Health and Disability Fund — the first of its kind. If the proposal is approved, and the fund created, six cents from each taxi ride taken in the city will go into the fund.

According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the union that represents the drivers, 50 percent of  all yellow cab drivers have no health insurance.

The TLC will also vote on Thursday whether to eliminate the five percent transaction fee drivers pay to their taxi company each time a trip is paid for by credit card. Replacing this arrangement would be a fee of $ 9 per shift.

Bhairavi Desai is the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. She says the healthcare fund is a critical component of the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s proposal, and will make a huge difference in the lives of the drivers.

Kuldeep Singh, 47, a resident of Floral Park, Queens, has been driving a taxi for 24 years. He buys private insurance for his family, which includes his wife and three children under 18. He says the insurance is about $ 800 per month for his whole family, and he can’t afford it.

“It [a workplace healthcare fund] would be a big help for us because it’s very expensive,” he said. “It’s always a pressure on the brain. ‘What if I get sick?’ ‘What if I have to go to the doctor?’ “

Here’s how the proposed 17 percent fare hike would shake out. The charge for each fifth of a mile traveled, or each 60 seconds in stopped or slow traffic, would be raised to 50 cents from 40 cents. There would also be a $ 7 increase in fares between Kennedy International Airport and Manhattan, amounting to $ 52, plus tolls. The surcharge on metered rides to Newark Liberty International Airport would also rise, to $ 17.50 from $ 15.

The last taxi fare increase was in 2004, when fares rose by 26 percent. In 2006, the city raised the price added for each minute that a cab was stopped or moved slowly in traffic, and in 2009, a 50-cent surcharge was added to help support the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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