NYC Taxi Drivers Win Debt Relief After 2-Week Hunger Strike

After a two week hunger strike and two months’ worth of sit-ins in New York City, taxi drivers hosted a long-awaited celebration outside City Hall in November 10.

New York City and New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), a union that fights to relieve taxi drivers from thousands of dollars of debt, reached an agreement on November 3rd. The union aims to pay off the medallions and physical permits they need to operate taxis. According to NYTWA, taxi drivers owe an average of $600,000.

“Today marks a new dawn, a new beginning for a workforce that has struggled through so much crisis and loss,” said Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of NYTWA, in a statement. “Today, we can say owner-drivers have won real debt relief and can begin to get their lives back. Drivers will no longer be at risk of losing their homes, and no longer be held captive to debt beyond their lifetime.”

Zohran Kwame Mmadani, a New York State Assemblymember from Queens, participated in the 15 day hunger strike in solidarity with taxi drivers who live in his district. Mamdani shared the words and actions of Douglas Schiffer on day 12 of the hunger strike. Schiffer was a taxi driver who lost his life because of financial stress.

“Wake up and resist,” Mamdani read. “I hope with this public sacrifice I make now that some attention to the plight of drivers will be made to save them and it will not be done in vain.”