I am not unfamiliar with the cab industry as I pushed a hack (cab) in NYC, Boston and Daytona Beach for a total of about 9 years of my life. Sometimes it was just part time work and for a number of years in Boston it was my full time occupation. I met my wife at a cab stop as she was a taxi driver as well; we both drove for the same company. So it is not surprising that I have fond memories of driving a cab and I would, in my retirement, love to return to that job for additional spending money on a part time basis.
But that was before the changes in the Taxi Industry that destroyed this great occupation and turned it into a depressing and anxiety filled nightmare that keeps normal citizens from driving cab anymore. The industry used to work like this: you got hired after you learned the streets and passed a test and background check etc. Then you got your Hackney License which you would carry with you and this allowed you to freelance with any cab company who might need drivers. The company paid for the gas and supplied the cab and you split the amount of the fares that you collected from your passengers (the percentages changed depending on the company and the city etc.) and you kept all your tips. So you called your own shots, worked when and where you wanted and went out for as long as you wanted or as short a period of time that you wanted. What a great job for a writer or for someone needing more cash and needed flexibility in their life.
How it works today: you have to ‘pay rental’ to the company that owns the cab. You must pay this amount to them whether you have made enough to pay them or not. You may have to work 14 to 16 hours on some days to just pay the rental fee before you can start making money for yourself. How did that happen I wonder? It seems so unfair.
Well it seems that the companies found out that there were a lot of immigrants who were willing to do business this way as they had no other employment opportunities. So there goes your English speaking, college kids, retirees and average working stiffs from the ranks of drivers around the country. You can hardly find an American born driver these days in the large cities due to this. And when they cheat you by driving you all over the place before getting you to your destination their defense will be that they did not understand you or your language.
But who can blame them. The working conditions of a cab driver these days is abysmal and they are making less money than they ever did; thanks to the emergence of Lyft and Uber. Cab driver suicides has spiked and is likely to continue as these drivers are finding that they are now not able to pay their rent or buy groceries. It reminds one of the days when industries used child labor and thus the need for child labor legislation that was enacted.
With more and more immigrants expected in the coming years I think that things are likely to get much worse before they get better. Now I am only speaking to one industry which I know something about but there are likely a number of industries that have found ways to exploit the immigrant and to force US citizens from their former jobs.
If Trump doesn’t stem the tide of this invasion then it will take a long time before anyone takes the time to look at specific industries and fix them so that a US born citizen might be able to hold his job before the rules are changed that make it impossible to continue in their employ.
It is both unfair to the citizens who are displaced but also to immigrants who take these jobs, have to share an apartment with sometimes a dozen or more other immigrants which is the only way they can make ends meet. US citizens aren’t likely to try to compete with that. So it is quite sad on many levels.
Give your cabbie a good tip next time you take one. It might make the difference between his being able to pay for the vehicle for the day or going into debt.