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Boston Taxi Drivers Face Exploitation While Owners Make Millions

Boston’s taxi system is riddled with “staggering exploitation and abuses,” according to an in-depth exposé in The Boston Globe. Many of the city’s 6,200 drivers are forced to pay nightly bribes for the keys to their cabs, start the shift already more than $100 in the red and are frequently charged with “phantom shortfalls” in the fares they deposit to the cab owners.

The report finds the owners of the taxi medallions—valued at more than $625,000 each—reap millions in profits while the mostly immigrant drivers often barely earn minimum wage for their 12-hour shifts and that the Boston Police Hackney Division’s unit, charged with regulating the taxi business, fails miserably in its duties.

Following the publication of the series, the Boston Taxi Drivers Association (BTDA)—an affiliate of the United Steelworkers (USW)—called for a “complete overhaul of this corrupt and exploitative system.” BTDA Director Donna Blythe-Shaw told reporters, “The Boston Police Hackney Division is a dysfunctional, mismanaged agency that has abetted a systemically corrupt industry that takes earnings away from working drivers and gives them to millionaires.”

 

She said that while Boston taxi drivers are subjected to punishing hacking regulations and industry exploitation:

Taxi garages and multi-medallion owners have made tens of millions of dollars off the backs of drivers. It’s time to hold those medallion owners accountable for their corruption.

Drivers are forced to lease the cabs from medallion owners—the largest of whom owns more than 300 medallions divided up among several companies under the Boston Cab umbrella. Out of fear of retaliation and because they expect little action from the Police Hackney Division, drivers rarely complain to owners or city officials.

The BTDA called for the creation of civilian Hackney licensing commission, the firing of Boston Police Hackney Division Director Marc Cohen as director of the Boston Police Hackney Division and an end to the independent contractor system for drivers and the resumption of the employee status with health care and other benefits. Said Blythe-Shaw:  

We call for an end of the abuses and overcharging by medallion owners. This is systematic. It’s got to stop.

Watch the video in in this post and read the three-part series here.

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