In April, New York State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar held a Zoom meeting to discuss the challenges faced by South Asian drivers in the “gig economy.” The event featured special guests, Congressman Ro Khanna; Terri Gerstein, Director, Harvard Labor and Worklife Program and Local Enforcement Project; and Sohail Rana, Senior Organizer for the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG).
The group discussed the Taxi medallion debt crisis, independent contractor classifications, Covid-19’s effect on drivers, and industry regulations.
Assemblywoman Rajkumar began the Zoom call by pointing out that 40% of the drivers regulated by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) are South Asian immigrants. In addition to the dangers caused by a recent spike in Asian hate crimes, Rajkumar said, “there are staggering rates of hypertension, diabetes and despair.”
Mr. Rana explained that the IDG was formed to give drivers a voice and ensure due process for those drivers who were getting deactivated without cause, but continuing efforts – including the IDG’s work with the New York Black Car Fund – has enabled Independent Contractor drivers to access important benefits at no cost to them, while leaving them with the flexibility they seek.
Co-sponsors of the event included the Sikh Cultural Society, Alliance of South Asian American Labor, South Asian Fund for Education Scholarship Training, Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group, Tamang Society of America, Minority Empowerment Network, Himalayan Democratic Club and the Bangladeshi American Society.