JFREJ Members Join Hunger Strike to #EndCabbieDebt

The New York Taxi Workers Association and allies are on a hunger strike to demand debt relief from the city.

November 2, 2021

Press Contact: Sophie Ellman-Golan | sophie@jfrej.org | 501-621-4483

Members of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) Join Hunger Strike to #EndCabbieDebt

The New York Taxi Workers Association (NYTWA) and allies have been hunger-striking for fourteen days, and have no plans to end the strike until Mayor de Blasio meets the union's demands.

New York, NY -- Three members of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) join the ranks of New Yorkers hunger striking in solidarity with the New York Taxi Workers Association (NYTWA). Donna Gould, Carlyn Cowen, and JFREJ Executive Director Audrey Sasson have all committed to joining the hunger strike for at least 24-48 hours.

NYTWA has been protesting at City Hall 24/7 for 45 days, and began the hunger strike fourteen days ago. Drivers are desperate, and have taken these drastic measures in the hopes that Mayor de Blasio will be forced to respond. Elected officials have also been participating in the hunger strike, including NY State Assembly Members Yuh-Line Niou and Zohran Mamdani, who both co-chair the Asian Pacific American Task Force.

"It’s appalling this level of sacrifice is necessary for Mayor de Blasio to deliver on basic dignity for New York City taxi drivers," said Audrey Sasson, JFREJ's Executive Director. "Jews fast on Yom Kippur to collectively atone, because we all have the responsibility to do better. It is the mayor who should be atoning now for what he continues to put our city's taxi workers through. Nobody should have to suffer this level of desperation, ever, especially not in a city with a $99 billion budget. It’s heartbreaking that it’s come to this. Joining the hunger strike is one way everyday New Yorkers can let cabbies know they do not suffer alone. The mayor has to face us all."

The Taxi Medallion Crisis: The city forced taxi drivers into debt by selling them taxi medallions at an impossible price, and then letting Uber and Lyft into the city, causing the value of those medallions to crash. These drivers — 94% of whom are immigrants — had to take out loans to afford the medallions in the first place. When the medallion market crashed, drivers lost the ability to pay back their loans. Countless taxi workers lost their homes. Nine drivers died by suicide over the crisis. Many more developed health issues due to the stress, with some losing their lives as well.

The Hunger Strikers' Demands: The union's demands of New York City and Mayor de Blasio are simple: Implement the debt-repayment plan that NYTWA has proposed and that current NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and incoming NYC Comptroller Brad Lander have both signed off on. The union's plan would cost the city $93 million over 30 years, which amounts to roughly $3 million per year out of the city's annual budget of $99 billion.

The city created this crisis, and the city has to fix it.

Large group photo of NYTWA members and JFREJ members in front of the Hunger Strike sign.
NYTWA members and JFREJ members on Day 14 of the hunger strike. (November 2, 2021)
Photo of three people in JFREJ t-shirts standing on either side of a woman in brown sweater, and behind two men in wheelchairs. Sign behind them reads "Hunger Strike. End Cabbie Debt"
JFREJ members Jim Talbott, Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg, and Sophie Ellman-Golan stand next to NY State Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, behind NYTWA member and hunger striker Richard Chow and other drivers on hunger strike. (October 31, 2021)
JFREJ member Jeri Essagof stands with Jaslin Kaur and NYTWA members after delivering a challah to the protestors before Shabbat. (September 25, 2021)
JFREJ member Sophie Ellman Golan stands with NYTWA members Augie Tang and Richard Chow after delivering a challah to the union before Shabbat. (March 12, 2021)

More photos are available here.

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Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) is the home of the New York Jewish Left. For over 30 years, JFREJ members have organized alongside our neighbors to win an equitable NYC free from all forms of racist violence, where everyone has what they need to thrive.