2,000 AFSCME members rally with Chicago cab drivers

More than 2,000 AFSCME members rallied Wednesday in support Chicago cab drivers organizing as part of Cab Drivers United-AFSCME Council 31. Delegates massed at Thompson Center to show solidarity with the drivers who are fighting for fair regulations and a voice in their future.

The AFSCME members were delegates to the union’s national convention. AFSCME has 1.6 million members nationwide, with 100,000 current and retiree members in Illinois.

AFSCME International Union President Lee Saunders joined Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez, Illinois AFSCME Council 31 leaders Henry Bayer and Roberta Lynch along with national civil rights leader Rev. William Barber as speakers at today’s assembly. Cab Drivers United members David Mangum and Maxwell Akenten also spoke.

A report issued by AFSCME last month documented that Chicago’s 12,000 cab drivers on average are losing $7,531 annually as a result of regulations enacted in 2012 by City Hall. Increased lease rates, reduced work hours and increased credit card fees are among the regulatory changes that have drastically reduced the income of the drivers, most of whom work 60-70 hours a week for less than the federal minimum wage.

“Driving a taxi cab has never been an easy job,” Mangum told the rally. “But now it’s unbearable…they’ve put the squeeze on cab drivers.”

AFSCME Council 31 Deputy Director Roberta Lynch emphasized the support the drivers are getting, and the injustice they face doing their job. “As essential as taxi drivers are to keeping our city on the move and making Chicago the city that works, they have been completely marginalized from the political process.”

Today’s rally is another step forward in the campaign to win a voice in the regulatory process that controls the livelihood of cab drivers and their families.

“They will be more powerful with AFSCME, and AFSCME will be more powerful with them!” AFSCME International President Lee Saunders told the rally. “So let’s join their fight! Let’s stand together! Let’s join hands in solidarity and unite with the cabdrivers of Chicago!”

“My brothers and sisters, thank you for standing with us in our fight for justice,” driver Atenken told the crowd. “We are AFSCME. Know that we will always stand with you, too. We will not forget this day.”