Nashville Taxi Drivers Organize for Justice
In the Summer of 2007, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) saw the need to form a Taxi Cab Association in Nashville, TN. Nashville is home to more than 600 cab drivers, most of whom are immigrants and refugees. hese Taxi drivers are disenfranchised and stuck in a system that leaves very little room for their voices to be heard. Some of the main areas of concern for the drivers are:
- There is no procedure to mediate issues between cab drivers and the taxi companies.
- There has been an unfair and steady increase of fees with no consideration drivers' ability to pay
- The Transportation Licensing Committee and the taxi companies make all decisions, excluding cabbies from the decision-making process, even though drivers are the backbone of the industry.
- When fees increase, the cab drivers have no procedure in place to file complaints to the taxi companies or the Transportation Licensing Committee.
- 600 cab drivers share a single restroom in the airport and there are no other break facilities at the airport taxi stop.
The Taxi Cab Association opened its office in Nashville and on April 15, 2008, and elected a new board that will serve for two years. They are working to fight the injustice faced by taxi drivers in Nashville and have recently gotten good press in local newspapers. Here is an excerpt from a recent article that was written after a reporter went undercover to investigate the conditions cabbies are facing:
From "What it's like to drive a taxi," by Colby Sledge in the March 28, 2008 Tennessean:
They work 16 hours a day, seven days a week. They earn little beyond what it takes to pay the bills. Their clients are sometimes drunk, sometimes racist, sometimes both....
During Wednesday's rides, all the cabs were clean, the driving at or under the speed limit, the routes direct and the drivers at least cordial and sometimes chatty. All of them spoke English proficiently, although sometimes with a heavy accent.....
Licensed drivers already must pay weekly fees from $150 to $175 to their cab owners and about $250 per month in insurance. The job isn't safe, either. A driver was robbed and stabbed in East Nashville just after midnight Tuesday, and no arrest had been made as of Thursday, according to Metro police.
With the help of TIRRC, Jobs with Justice and The Homeless Power Project, taxi drivers are fighting for justice for all workers. Immigrants or citizens, undocumented or documented, caucasian or indian or latino, man or woman; we must work for fair and living wages and working conditions for everyone. Once one worker can be exploited, everyone is at risk. An injustice to one is an injustice to all.