Oliver & Prieto Hail Launch of United Transportation Alliance of New Jersey

UTANJ Will Be Good for Drivers, Consumers & Community
(NEWARK, NJ) – Today, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) launched the United Transportation Alliance of New Jersey (UTANJ) – a membership-based organization created to respond to the direct needs of taxi drivers and workers in Newark and throughout the state.

UTANJ will fight for basic workplace, civil and privacy rights, as well as economic justice and access to healthcare. The new alliance will also benefit consumers and the public – by making sure the ride is safe and reliable with rates that are transparent, consistent and fair.

“Newark’s taxi drivers work long, hard hours with little pay and even less protection,” said Chris Shelton, CWA District 1 Vice-President. “Right now, these hard-working men and women are forced to deal with all the negatives of being an independent contractor, yet they enjoy none of the benefits or protections. The UTANJ will change all that. The days of ripping these drivers off is over.”

“These men and women are a snapshot of hard-working New Jersey,” said Lionel Leach, CWA Local 1039 President. “I am proud to announce that, as of today, these drivers now have a union. And this union is going to fight for them every day – making sure they have a livable wage, basic protections and a safe work environment.”

“Today is a great day for New Jerseyans who need their taxi service to get to work, to see the doctor, to buy groceries and meet other basic needs,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (NJ-34). “Safer and healthier taxi drivers mean safer and healthier taxi riders. After all, economic fairness, worker rights, access to healthcare and safer and healthier conditions benefit everyone.”

“We know all too well that we must do something to enhance the various transit options available for our residents,” said Assembly Speaker-elect Vincent Prieto (NJ-32). “I welcome the establishment of the United Transportation Alliance of New Jersey. Economic justice, workplace rights, and safer and healthier conditions benefit everyone.”

“With today’s launch of the United Transportation Alliance of New Jersey, both the CWA and the City of Newark are once again leading the way with forward-thinking and fighting for fairness,” said Senator Ron Rice (NJ-28). “By organizing, these taxi drivers are going to have safer, more equitable working conditions. And the general public will reap the benefits with fares that are frankly more fair and transparent.”

CWA organizers have already met or spoken with over 300 of Newark’s roughly 2,000 taxi cab drivers. They work 12-14 hour days, barely making minimum wage with fares coming in at a mere $6-10 per trip. If they’re lucky or put in extremely long shifts, they’ll make 10 rides a day.

These drivers do not receive the most basic employee benefits that other workers or real independent contractors receive – such as unemployment insurance, workers compensation, social security, life insurance, sick and vacation time, etc. They also have to deal with unfair practices by management. Drivers must rent their cabs from owners, have to use particular dispatchers and pay them what they demand. They can’t set their own rates or rules.

Moreover, management decides where to send drivers, sometimes giving favorable treatment or assignments to family members and friends. The owners also make money off the WIFI and tablets that drivers are forced to pay exorbitant prices for to get their job in the first place. And if a driver fails to respond to a pick-up request off the tablet within five seconds, they may lose the trip – even though responding while driving would force them to break the law. If a driver complains about any of these measures, he or she could be suspended.

UTANJ will be an affiliate of CWA, and its members will be CWA Local 1039. CWA already represents taxi drivers in Denver. The other six major American cities who currently have taxi cab alliances include: Austin, Eugene, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, and Washington D.C.