A Yemeni immigrant is the sixth driver to die of suicide in the past eight months, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
A sixth New York City taxi cab driver took his own life on Friday night, the latest in a string of driver suicides that has shaken the industry and brought attention to its economic hardships.
Abduel Saleh, 59, is a Yemeni immigrant and the sixth driver to die of suicide in the past eight months, according to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA).
Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of NYTWA, said that Saleh had been out of work for two weeks. He and his driving partner Qamar Chaudhary had turned in their taxi cab after splitting night and day shifts that went as long as 12 hours for seven years, she said. Chaudhary’s cousin had offered him an opportunity to drive with Uber, and Chaudhary offered Saleh a similar opportunity, Desai explained.
Mr. Saleh still wanted to drive a yellow cab, so he was deciding what to do,” she said. “But even before then he was falling behind on the lease. He was behind as much as $300 on the last week that he worked.”
Saleh’s friends said that he tended to work the airport and hotel lines in hopes of picking up fares, a strategy that has seen fewer and fewer of returns in recent years because of ride-sharing services, Desai said.
he added that cab and livery drivers do not have retirement to fall back on and would only suffer greater poverty if they turned to Uber or Lyft.
“He drove for over half his life,” Desai said. “This is what he knew. This was his job. This is how he knew to earn a living for himself and his family overseas in Yemen. Your days are spent hearing about your family in the middle of such a devastating war and then you having little means to financially support them to relocate them.”
Chaudhary told the New York Post that Saleh “sounded upset and depressed.”
“I know he wasn’t making enough money to pay his lease,” Chaudhary added. “He was short here and there, and I used to have to help him out. He said he didn’t know how to survive.”
The NYTWA plans to have a press conference outside of New York City’s city hall on Monday to address Saleh’s death and the economic hardship they say drivers currently face.
Many cab drivers work more than a dozen hours a day, seven days a week, yet are left cash-strapped after paying off car and taxi medallion loans, according to the NYTWA.
One problem that many in the industry point to is a glut of drivers, as ride-share companies such as Lyft and Uber increased the number of cars in the road.
Five other New York City livery and cab drivers experiencing economic hardship have taken their own lives in recent months, most notably Douglas Schifter who killed himself on the steps of city hall. Schifter said that the ride-share companies were contributing to the financial strain that led him to such drastic measures, according to a manifesto he wrote on Facebook.
“We’re just so angry,” said Desai. “We’re really angry that we now have gone to six funerals.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
New York’s ‘Taxi King’ ordered to pay $1.3m in sexual harassment case
New York’s “Taxi King” Gene Freidman has been hit with a $1.34m judgment over claims he sexually harassed and later retaliated against a former assistant.
Freidman, a former business associate of Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, was accused of subjecting employee Elaine Gutierrez to a range of abuse.
He was alleged to have made explicit comments about her body in private and in front of groups of associates, including according to Gutierrez’s complaint, saying: “Get your big boobs out of my face,” and even commenting to other men in the room: “Did you see her boobs?” and “Do you know Elaine rubbed them big boobs on me?”
Freidman was also accused of throwing papers on the floor and forcing Gutierrez to pick them up, and on occasion harassing her in front of her 10-year-old daughter. In 2017, Gutierrez was fired in what was described by her counsel as “a blatant act of retaliation for speaking out against the harassment”.
Gutierrez’s lawyer, Lawrence Pearson, said in a statement: “In the #MeToo era, the message is clear: no one, not even the so-called ‘Taxi King’, is above the law when it comes to workplace sexual harassment.”
In May, it was reported that Freidman had agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness as part of a plea deal on tax evasion charges relating to his taxi medallion business. At one point his company owned 900 medallions, the licenses to run yellow cabs in New York.
Under the agreement Freidman will avoid jail time and will assist federal and state prosecutors in investigations. That, in turn, puts pressure on Cohen, who in the southern district of New York.
Cohen was a partner in Freidman’s taxi business for years and is believed to own around 20 New York medallions in his own right. But that is a minor holding compared to Freidman, who told Bloomberg in 2015 that he owned 1,100.
At their peak in 2103, medallions were auctioned off for a record $1.32m each. But the rise of Uber and Lyft has caused their value to collapse to under $200,000.
In July 2015, the New York state tax authorities named four of Freidman’s taxi companies among the state’s top 250 delinquent business taxpayers.
Almost a year later, the then New York state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, placed an independent monitor to oversee Freidman’s financial records and business dealings after the Taxi King failed to comply with a 2013 ruling that he must pay drivers the money they were owed.
Las Vegas taxi drivers to boycott Strip hotels
The battle between taxi cabs and rideshare companies continues on the Las Vegas Strip this weekend.
A grassroots group known as Vegas Drivers Unite claim they have started to boycott several different Strip hotel-casinos in an effort to fight back against rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft.
On their website, the group says participating cabbies plan not to pick up any passenger from New York-New York hotel-casino for 72 hours starting Thursday morning and continuing every week for the rest of the month.
Last month, the group said they boycotted the Bellagio and next month they plan to boycott Mandalay Bay and Delano.
The grassroots group said they are fighting back against the takeover of rideshare companies.
Earlier this year, the Taxi Cab Authority released numbers showing a decline in taxi ridership in 2017. They claim ridership has been declining the past three years and millions of dollars are being lost.
Vegas Drivers Unite said they hope by not showing up at these locations, then casinos, hotels and community leaders will take notice of the importance of taxis and drive rideshare companies out of the resort corridor.
Las Vegas local Sierra Snow said she preferred taking rideshares because they are “cheaper”.
“It has been years [since I’ve taken a taxi],” Snow said.
While out-of-towner Doug Jim said he preferred the convenience of a taxi cab even if he has to pay extra fees.
“I paid extra fees but my taxi driver had a big kerfuffle with the Uber drivers, so I’m kind of on his side,” Jim said.
13 Action News did reach out to Vegas Drivers Unite to get an idea of how many drivers were participating in the boycott but have not heard back. Drivers are not required to participate as it is a grassroots effort.
Uber driver who kicked out lesbian couple getting taxi license back
A New York City judge this week sided with an Uber driver whose taxi license was suspended after he kicked a lesbian couple out of his car.
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) suspended Ahmad El Boutari’s license last month after a lesbian couple accused him of discrimination.
He reportedly told the women to leave his car after they kissed.
The women, Alex Iovine and Emma Pichl, described the kiss as a “peck,” but El Boutari claims that the couple went further and “were about to have sex in the car.”
Judge Joycelyn McGeachy-Kuls wrote in her Monday decision that TLC did not provide sufficient evidence that El Boutari discriminated against the passengers on the basis of sexual orientation, and recommended that his license be reinstated.
“Respondent credibly testified that he asked the complainants to get out of his car because their conduct violated Uber’s policy prohibiting sexual contact between passengers,” she wrote.
The case went before the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings after TLC suspended El Boutari’s license.
The incident went viral after Iovine posted a video of the confrontation online, in which the couple can be seen arguing with El Boutari.
McGeachy-Kuls wrote in her decision that it “seems unlikely” that El Boutari would have asked the women to leave his car over a “peck kiss” because it would have resulted in him giving up the fare and risking a bad Uber rating from the passengers. She also said that the couple gave conflicting testimony to Uber, TLC and at the OATH hearing, according to the New York Post.
An Uber spokesperson told NBC News that the company has removed El Boutari’s access to the Uber app, and that the company has been in touch with Iovine and Pichl about the incident.
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