A diverse group of workers from New York and New Jersey met at the Winpisinger Education & Technology Center to plan the next steps to organize not only themselves, but the nearly 10,000 Black Car Drivers in their respective states. District 15 in New York City now represents about 100 drivers in the industry.
The Black Car Drivers provide premium personal transportation services in the New York metro area and most are recent immigrants from all corners of the globe trying to build a good life in the United States. To get started in the industry, they must purchase an upscale vehicle and buy a “franchise” from a “base” for up to $80,000. The “base” provides them with a dispatcher and client contacts. All of the other operating costs, including upkeep, maintenance, insurance, even monthly fees to the dispatchers, are born by the drivers.
Nearly two dozen drivers from different “bases” traveled to the Winpisinger Center for a three day session of basic union orientation, their rights to organize, campaign strategy, tactics, goals and solidarity within the group. “This was very informative for me,” said Yun Li. “I didn’t know anything about my rights or even a union, other than the untruth I was told by my base owners. The only way to find the truth for yourself, is face to face. The training and planning of the past days have shown me what’s right, and now I can see hope for the future.”
“Imagine going to your job day in and day out and not only having to pay to work there, but also paying for the product or service you provide and nearly every cost associated with it,” said District 15 DBR, Jim Conigliaro, Sr. “These drivers can spend up to 15 hours every day on call and not get a single call, and they still foot the operating bill for that day. Many times the lack of a call is punishment from the dispatchers after the drivers try to exercise their basic rights. As a whole, drivers earn less than $25,000 per year with no benefits and a dim future for themselves and their families, at the same time serving some of the wealthiest people on Wall Street.”
“These workers are barely scraping by in an industry patronized by wealthy Wall Street Bankers, who pit these workers against one another to get cheaper rates,” said Eastern Territory GVP Lynn D. Tucker, Jr. “Their working conditions have developed into something unseen in the labor movement for many years. The drivers pay large sums of money to get in the industry, pay fees, fines and penalties that amount to working for the company store, with no way out and no future at the end. The IAM intends to help them change all that.”