Taxi Workers’ Alliance of Pennsylvania

Taxi Workers’ Alliance of Pennsylvania

Cab drivers in Philadelphia look like the United Nations on wheels. They hail from six continents and bring a rich diversity of experience to their twelve-hour shifts crisscrossing the city. But they are united by their desire to support themselves and their families—and do it safely and with dignity.

In 2005, five cab drivers were murdered in the City of Brotherly Love. Meter rates were fixed at 1991 levels. Fines for minor infractions were skyrocketing. And the cabbies seemed to have no recourse. Most were low-income immigrants who rented their cars from fleet owners and struggled to understand layers of complex regulations. They were afraid to speak out.

A full-time cabdriver working 12-hour shifts nets about $4 an hour.

Then, a group of drivers banded together in frustration to tackle the issues. They talked with drivers in other cities. They formed the Taxi Workers’ Alliance of Pennsylvania and conducted a peaceful one-hour work stoppage. Their first tangible victory was a modest fare increase from state regulators.

More than one-quarter of full-time cabbies in Philadelphia now belong to the Taxi Workers’ Alliance.

But the cabbies realized that “working together works.” They staged prayer vigils to draw attention to violence against drivers.

TWA uses CCHD funding to help organize drivers to increase their income and improve conditions. At TWA’s urging, state and city regulators lowered fines by 75 percent and now solicit drivers’ input on rule changes. The union works with taxi owners, dispatchers and police to resolve issues and improve safety. It is also creating a dispatch company owned and operated by drivers.

Looking ahead, TWA plans to negotiate health insurance for its members under the Affordable Care Act.