Taxi Workers React to Taxi Companies’ Attempt to Evade TLC Lease Cap Rules
October 10, 2012
By Bhairavi Desai, Executive Diretor New York Taxi Workers Alliance
Once again, the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade is trying to use the courts to undercut the rights and livelihoods of hard-working taxi drivers. This time, MTBOT, traditionally a fleet owners’ trade association, is seeking to deny protection to drivers who’ve long suffered overcharges by taxi agents who lease the medallion and finance the vehicle purchase at exorbitant rates.
In July 2012, as part of the fare raise, the TLC voted to regulate how much an agent can charge the driver, similarly to how they regulate how much a fleet can charge a driver. An increase in fares does not trickle down to the driver if the lease we pay the fleet or agent isn’t capped. Thousands of taxi drivers have been in desperate need of this new lease cap. For years, agents have raised the lease on drivers, charging arbitrary amounts in excess of $10,000 by simply mislabeling them as non-TLC regulated “vehicle related expenses.” Drivers have further been paying $60,000 for $30,000-vehicles. After decades of being outside the law, the TLC passed historic regulation to make it clear that agents cannot use vehicle financing to evade the maximum cap on how much an agent can charge a driver for a medallion lease. Finally, the TLC closed the loophole which had allowed this one segment in the industry to be the only one to remain outside of regulation in the TLC’s 41-year history. Taxi drivers, at the behest of this unregulated segment, will have rights for the first-time.
Somehow, MTBOT is using the law to claim that they should remain outside the law. But their attack is not really on regulators; it’s on taxi drivers who asserted their power to claim a decent living after 60-70 hours of back-breaking labor. We, like the city, are confident that in the end, justice will prevail and the court will do the right thing.
The TRO, which the court granted, will delay justice for taxi drivers who are already leasing from an agent. We look forward to seeing this segment of our driver brothers and sisters hold the same legal protections as the rest of the workforce. In contracts between agents and drivers after September 30, 2012, the agent must abide by the new TLC rules.
Drivers who lease from garages (now or in the future) will also not be affected by the TRO. The fleets must follow the new rules. We are resolved to win our long struggle for economic fairness in the taxi industry and the full implementation of the TLC’s new historic lease cap regulations being applied to protect every single taxi driver in the City of New York. Justice may have been delayed, but we hold faith that in the end, it will not be denied.