Jun 22, 2018

The big picture: Why NYC cabbies are committing suicide

NYC taxi drivers protest against Uber outsdie of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office in 2015. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Last Friday, a sixth New York City cab driver — 59-year-old Yemeni immigrant, Abdul Saleh — committed suicide, NBC News reported.

The big picture: Much of the blame is being placed on financial distress spurred by competition with ride-sharing companies in the city.

The competition
  • "About 70,000 app-based vehicles compete with more than 30,000 black cars and livery cars, 13,500 yellow taxis and about 4,000 green taxis," the Wall Street Journal's Paul Berger reported in May.
  • One of the big problems is that cab drivers are forced into financial distress as they try to pay off tax medallion loans — which essentially allow drivers to operate their own cabs, instead of leasing from companies. They've plummeted in value; Axios' Steve LeVine reported in May that they were worth over $1 million in 2014, and are now worth around $175,000.
  • There was a 23% decrease in annual earnings for full-time taxi drivers, the New York Post reported in March, from $45,529 in 2013 to $35,344 in 2016.
  • There's also the degrading factor, as career taxi drivers who take pride in knowing their way around a city are now in competition with many drivers who do it as a side-gig, Wired reported earlier this year.
The fix
  • The New York Taxi Worker Alliance (NYTWA) is calling for New York City Hall to "cap the number of vehicles flooding our streets; create a wage floor for drivers in all sectors....establish fare labor standards for FHV drivers and provide immediate relief to struggling yellow cab owner-drivers," according to a press release on Monday.
  • The NYTWA and Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) are united in wanting more money for drivers, Wired reports: The IDG wants apps to raise the minimum wage by 37%, and the NYTWA wants New York City to raise yellow cab rates.
  • Both the NYTWA and IDG want NYC "to cap the number of new entrants, as they worry that demand isn't keeping pace with increasing supply of drivers," per Wired.
What they're saying
  • An Uber spokesperson told Axios: "We are deeply saddened and our thoughts are with Mr. Saleh's family. Any new regulations must not hurt the millions of outer borough Uber riders who have long been ignored by yellow taxis and who don't have access to reliable public transit. We believe that all full-time drivers in NYC - taxi, limousine and Uber alike - should be able to make a living wage and support their families.”
  • NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said, per Monday's press release: "We will not allow the status quo of callousness toward struggling drivers to continue for one more day...We will not sit idly by as Wall street behemoths and their shills try to derail regulation or limit it to just one sector of drivers when every driver in every sector...is sinking deeper into profound desperation. Suicide can't be the only way that desperate poor people find mercy."
  • The IDG said in a statement: "We stand in solidarity with our fellow drivers and will not rest until all of our city's For-Hire Vehicle drivers can make a living wage, start spending time with their families, and be able to retire. Until there are living wage rules to protect for-hire vehicle drivers and a halt on new drivers entering the industry, the desperation will continue. Our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Mr. Saleh and to all our fellow suffering drivers, whether they drive for taxis, livery, apps or black cars."

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,410,228 — Total deaths: 345,105 — Total recoveries — 2,169,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,643,499 — Total deaths: 97,722 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The CDC is warning of potentially "aggressive rodent behavior" amid a rise in reports of rat activity in several areas, as the animals search further for food while Americans stay home more during the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers: More than 97,700 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 366,700 Americans have recovered and more than 14.1 million tests have been conducted.

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Japan's economy minister outlined plans on Monday to end the nationwide state of emergency as the number of new novel coronavirus cases continues to decline to fewer than 50 a day, per Bloomberg. Japan has reported 16,550 cases and 820 deaths.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.