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NYC Taxi Drivers Win Debt Relief After 2-Week Hunger Strike

The average debt owed on medallions, the physical permits to operate taxis, is $600,000.

New York City taxi drivers and their supporters demanding debt relief rally during the second week of a hunger strike outside City Hall on October 31, 2021, in New York City.

After a two-week hunger strike and two months of sit-ins, dozens of taxi drivers in New York City hosted a long-awaited celebration outside City Hall on November 10.

On November 3, New York City reached an agreement with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA), the union fighting to relieve drivers of thousands of dollars in debt they owe for medallions, the physical permits to operate taxis. According to the NYTWA, the average debt owed on medallions by taxi drivers is $600,000.

“Today marks a new dawn, a new beginning for a workforce that has struggled through so much crisis and loss,” said Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of NYTWA, in a statement. “Today, we can say owner-drivers have won real debt relief and can begin to get their lives back. Drivers will no longer be at risk of losing their homes, and no longer be held captive to debt beyond their lifetime.”

Zohran Kwame Mamdani, a New York State Assemblymember representing the diverse borough of Queens, participated in the 15-day hunger strike as an act of solidarity with the taxi drivers, many of whom live in his district. On day 12 of the hunger strike, Mamdani shared the words of Douglas Schiffer, a taxi driver who ended his own life due to the financial stress he endured while in debt.

“Wake up and resist,” Mamdani read. “I hope with this public sacrifice I make now that some attention to the plight of drivers will be made to save them and it will not be done in vain.”

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