Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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April 30, 2015

Why the next Philip Glass probably will never come from among the ranks of Uber drivers

from Glass's newly published Words Without Music: A Memoir:

Driving a cab was never a problem for me . . . That was in the says where the cabdriver made 49 percent of the meter, paid in a check every two weeks, and kept all of the tips (maybe thirty dollars on forty to fifty rides a night).  We didn't pay insurance, gas, or tires.  I remember many nights making a hundred or one hundred twenty dollars, and in the 1970s that was good money.  If I worked three nights a week,  I had enough to pay my rent and living expenses . . . 
A lot of Einstein on the Beach was written at night after driving a cab. The days when I didn't have to drive I had time to write music in the daytime . . . 
After five years, I finally quit driving a cab in 1978 when the commission to write Satyagraha for the Netherlands Opera came through.


Uber doesn’t count these drivers as employees. Uber says they’re “independent contractors.”
What difference does it make?
. .  Uber drivers pay for their cars – not just buying them but also their maintenance, insurance, gas, oil changes, tires, and cleaning. Subtract these costs and Uber drivers’ hourly pay drops considerably.

from Robert Reich's "Why We're All Becoming Independent Contractors," here.

(More on Uber driver take-home pay: herehere and here.)

Reich also mentions Uber drivers' lack of "labor protections."  The mid-1970s drivers, like Glass, who drove out of the Dover Taxi Garage seem not to have been formally unionized.  However, the garage was the hotbed of the Taxi Rank and File Coalition, described by the NLRB in 1977 as "an activist group of taxi industry employees with participants working at various of the companies covered" by Local 3036's contract.

Mark Jacobson's classic 1975 magazine piece on Dover gives a good sense of the Coalition's militancy.

A terrific blog devoted to the Coalition, including six full years' worth of scans of its newspaper, The Hot Seat, discussing its activities, is here.