Broke Burmese Cab Driver in NYC Commits Suicide [that’s 5 in 5 months] to Protest Government Overregulation & Manipulation of Taxi Market to Benefit Unregulated Uber

yu chow.jpg

Free Market Fantasy. From [HERE] and [MORE] A body found floating in the East River earlier this week was positively identified as cabbie Yu Mein “Kenny’ Chow – the latest financially struggling taxi driver to lose his life as the heavily over-regulated industry reels amid competition from ride-hail services like Uber, which the government has chosen not to regulate. 

The 56-year-old, who left his car by the East River, was last seen on May 11. He had been stressed about a $700,000 mortgage on his taxi medallion that he couldn’t pay off.

“We are mourning today,” Richard Chow said in a family statement. “My brother lost hope as many other medallion owners looking for justice and fairness have.

“NYC has to act as soon as possible on bringing fairness and a level playing field to the taxi industry before other medallion owners gets so depressed so that, out of desperation, they take their own life.”

NY Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai noted that Chow’s income “plummeted” in the last five years “even as he worked increasingly grueling 14-hour-plus shifts to make ends meet.”

“Make no mistake: the crisis that took Kenny’s life and the lives of four others pushed to suicide in recent months was entirely preventable,” Desai fumed.

“City Hall allowed Uber and Lyft to expand unchecked, devastating the lives and livelihoods of New York City’s professional drivers. There are real human consequences to a business model predicated on destroying labor standards and treating workers as expendable.”

At least five for-hire drivers have taken their lives in the past six months. 

Meanwhile, an Economic Policy Institute study found that Uber drivers earn on average less than $10 an hour after expenses. The NY Taxi Workers Alliance says "no driver wins this vicious race to the bottom. [MORE]

Chow’s family filed a missing-person report May 12. Cops found his vehicle on 86th Street and East End Avenue, just a block from the East River.

Chow and his wife, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, were in such dire financial straights that they couldn’t pay for their daughter to go to college and she had to return home. [MORE]

Throughout the US the taxicab industry is heavily over regulated by local governments. Although Uber and Lyft provide a substantially similar service, local governments have exempted them from taxicab regulations. The elite media largely ignores government over-regulation and the resulting unfair or closed market and focus on the inadequacies of taxicab drivers and companies. No level playing field exists because local governments have ensured that it remains unequal.

In Washington D.C. for instance, Uber & Lyft are not required to even provide wheelchair accessible service. Yet the D.C. government aggressively shuts down taxicab companies (which are mostly small businesses owned by non-white immigrants) that do not purchase enough wheelchair vehicles for their fleets.  According to a recent George Mason study of the taxicab market in DC which in many respects is less regulated than NYC,

"those seeking to enter the taxicab industry in the District of Columbia face a thicket of regulatory burdens imposed at the driver, vehicle, and company levels. The following is a nonexhaustive list of the rules imposed by the DC DFHV.

Before they may legally operate, drivers must submit (1) an application form; (2) a medical history; (3) three letters of recommendation; (4) proof of residence; (5) proof of legal residence in the United States; (6) a criminal history request; (7) a driving record; (8) proof that all outstanding tickets have been paid; (9) a “DC Clean Hands” form; (10) a “DC Business Tax Registration” form; (11) $274.50 in fees (the fee to drive a limo is $299.50, and the fee to drive both is $425.50); and (12) a set of fingerprints for an FBI background check. In addition, an aspiring taxi driver must (13) take a taxi-driver competency test, which is separate from the test required to obtain a standard driver’s license.

Before they may be legally used as vehicles for hire, all taxicabs must (1) have an approved taximeter installed by an approved business (installation costs $150);10 (2) have an approved dome light installed by an approved business (installation costs as high as $700);11 (3) have an approved “vehicle condition monitoring device” installed by an approved business in vehicles used after their mandated retirement age (installation costs between $100 and $169);12 (4) comply with uniform requirements for taxicab coloring and markings (paint jobs cost between $400 and $600);13 (5) submit to annual vehicle inspections; (6) comply with vehicle retirement rules that limit the age and mileage of vehicles; and (7) pay a vehicle licensing fee of $275 per vehicle.

Before they may enter into business, all taxicab companies must (1) obtain a certificate of operating authority, which requires a host of things, including a certification of occupancy for an office; (2) submit a copy of the organization’s bylaws; (3) submit identification of the number of hybrid taxicabs, wheelchair-accessible taxicabs, and other specially equipped vehicles; and (4) submit descriptions and pictures of trade names and logos. Moreover, they must (5) pay a business licensing fee of $475.16

Once in operation, taxicab operators must (1) charge only mandated rates and fees for rides originating from street hails; (2) comply with certain procedures for collecting and remitting surcharges; (3) offer passengers printed receipts containing specific information; (4) carry sufficient cash to make change for cash payments; (5) display taxi-related signs and identification; (6) maintain a manifest record of all trips; (7) carry the required level of insurance; and (8) follow certain requirements limiting how and where passengers can be picked up. [MORE]