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As many of you know, Darol Chamberlain died suddenly – from an aortic aneurysm – on August 5th. Darol was a long-time member of the Taxi Rank & File Coalition. He drove at Ann Service and was a member of the shop committee there. Darol was steady and thoughtful, never calling attention to himself, always focused on doing what had to be done. When he left taxi in the mid 70s, he went to NYC Technical College to study machine tool technology.
In the late 1970s, he moved up to Ithaca with his soon to be wife Jane Mt. Pleasant. He got a job at a lab at Cornell. Whenever I saw him, I would ask him about his job but, honestly, I could never understand what he did there. I think that was partially because it was over my head but also because he was so modest and unassuming and always understated his role. A group of us from the Rank & File went up to the service for him. There were a couple of hundred people there, and many spoke movingly of the ways that Darol had touched them. While I got a little bit better sense of what he did there (he was the head of the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) electronics team and a member of the Clark Hall detector group at the Cornell Physics department), the truth is, I still don’t really understand it. But in their comments, the Darol I knew came shining through. He was a friend and comrade, someone who helped many of us understand the natural world, someone who could always be relied on. It’s hard to believe he’s gone.
I’ve reproduced here some of the documents from the service.
I thought this was worth sharing! Hope to see you in the streets!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, January 30, 2017
Statement from New York Taxi Workers Alliance on #DeleteUber:
Seeing thousands of you stand up in defense of our strike and against Uber’s greed has been so deeply moving. Striking is the hardest decision workers have to make, even when you win, because of the isolation that follows. Your solidarity brings us light in these dark times, in so many ways.
Uber, more than any other share-the-scraps company, has used liberal rhetoric to woo progressives all the while retaining three times more lobbyists than Wal-Mart to push for policies that keep workers poor. It’s not shocking that Uber would put greed above social principles. It does that to drivers every day.
Now is the time for all those who value justice and equality to join together in holding Uber accountable, not only for its complicity with Trump’s hateful policies but also for impoverishing workers.
Uber’s greed and disregard for social values was evident before the company’s CEO Travis Kalanick became an advisor to Donald Trump. And Uber drivers along with other professional drivers bear the brunt of that greed.
Make no mistake, the corporations leading the gig economy and the sharing economy will never be a part of the resistance. Backed by billions of dollars in Wall Street funding, these companies, including Uber and Lyft, are upending labor standards for which workers have spent centuries fighting. Sharing is the new euphemism for worker exploitation, meaning that workers share the scraps after corporations loot profits. Even as these corporations make million-dollar pledges today, they still refuse to abide by Minimum Wage laws.
We are a workforce that is predominantly Muslim and Sikh, a workforce that is predominantly black and brown, and a workforce that is increasingly impoverished. Uber and other so-called sharing economy actors are predicated on turning full-time jobs into part-time gigs, keeping workers impoverished and fragmented, making it harder to take action – at a loss to the workers and to civil society as we know it. That’s why we are so incredibly proud of our members, including Uber drivers, who stood up to the injustice of the Muslim ban on Saturday.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance represents all professional drivers in New York City, uniting those who drive Yellow Cabs, Green Cars, and Black Cars, including app-dispatched drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft.
Let’s hold Uber and every single corporation accountable for its greed-at-all-cost complicity in this inhumane policy and every such policy that follows. And let’s equally hold them accountable for the policies of impoverishment.
Founded in 1998, NYTWA is the 19,000-member strong union of NYC taxicab drivers, representing yellow cab drivers, green car, and black car drivers, including drivers for Uber and Lyft. We fight for justice, rights, respect and dignity for the over 50,000 licensed men and women who often labor 12 hour shifts with little pay and few protections in the city’s mobile sweatshop. Our members come from every community, garage, and neighborhood. To find out more visit NYTWA.org or like us on facebook.com/nytwa.
Many of you must have noticed the passing on May 11th of Michael Ratner, for many years the President of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Michael was a tireless and passionate fighter for justice and social change. The New York Times ran a long obituary that can be found here. The Center ran their own tribute to him on their website.
None of the pieces I’ve read have mentioned a little known part of Michael’s early career: he was one of the lawyers who worked on the Taxi Rank & File Coalition’s historic lawsuit challenging the union leadership’s effort to impose the hated 1971 contract without a vote by the membership – as required by the union constitution. We filed our suit in April 1973, fully two years after the taxi bosses and the union imposed the contract – over the overwhelming opposition of taxi workers. You can read all about it in the Hot Seat, starting with #22.
We finally won a victory of sorts in November of that year when the unratified contract expired and the union and fleetowners tried to submit the next one to binding arbitration. Judge Marvin Frankel issued a temporary restraining order blocking that move. Finally, in June 1974, the union agreed to settle the case and hold a vote on what was now a new contract. The vote finally took place in September ’74. By then, the anger and fury over the contract was a distant memory and its most significant “innovations”, a lower share of the fare for new drivers and a dime off the top for benefits, had acquired the air of permanency. Barely five percent of the union membership voted and the contract passed by about two to one. According to the Hot Seat (I have to rely on that account since I can’t remember the details myself), almost half the people who voted for the contract were pensioners – the union leadership’s main base of support.
The Rank & File’s lead attorney was Richard Levy, but Michael played an important role in thinking through the case and developing strategy. I was on the committee that met with the lawyers, and I remember Michael as thoughtful, humble, and smart. He and Richard (who worked very hard on the case) did great work and were forever gracious to us even though the Rank & File voted not to ask the court to force the union to pay our legal fees.
Michael will be missed!