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Table K. Characteristics of Unregulated Work in the Taxi Industry in New York City

Note: Most taxi drivers are exempt from one or more employment or labor laws. In this table, we evaluate working conditions as if workers were covered by all employment and labor laws; see our definition of unregulated work in Section III.

INdUStrY SeGmeNtS Where WorkplACe VIolAtIoNS Are CommoN

Industry segments

Violations are common in yellow cab and livery cab segments (and likely in the dollar van segment, though there is less information here).

Ownership and size

Yellow cab garages range between 50-400 taxis. Livery cab bases average 100-200 cars, with some as large as 700 or 800 cars. Dollar vans are usually run out of small shops.

Union density

e yellow cab segment had high union density before 1979, at which point its drivers were reclassi- fied as independent contractors, effectively eliminating formal union representation.

the JoBS Where WorkplACe VIolAtIoNS Are CommoN


Yellow cab drivers (mainly operate in Manhattan). Livery cab drivers (mainly operate in the outer boroughs and uptown Manhattan). Dollar van drivers (mainly operate in the outer boroughs).

Typical wages

For most drivers, net earnings are determined by (a) the revenues they take in from fares, minus (b) expenses they pay out of pocket (such as gas, leasing or base charges, car insurance, fees & fines). Yellow cab drivers: In 2004, drivers’ costs averaged $800 or more per week. After subtracting costs, take-home pay ranged from $400-$500 per week. But this varied considerably by shift; at the begin- ning of the week, drivers could take home as little as $22 per day. Livery cab drivers: In 2004, costs for owner-drivers included $7,000 insurance annually, plus about $250 per week in base charges, gas, and other fees. After subtracting costs, annual income averaged around $20,000, though tickets, fines, and the costs of buying a car reduce that amount further. Driv- ers who rented cabs from owners paid as much as $1000 per week, and netted as little as $200. Dollar van drivers: In 2004, fare revenues could be as much as $1,000 per week, but expenses are high; net earnings seem comparable to livery cab drivers.

Typical hours

Full-time yellow cab and livery cab drivers usually work 6 days a week, for 12-16 hour per day (12 hour shifts are the minimum for most drivers).

Payment method

When the drivers are independent contractors, income is cash-based (i.e. fares). When drivers are considered “employees” they are largely paid on the books.


e large majority of drivers do not have health benefits, paid vacation days or sick days. Drivers can apply for HealthStat Insurance through the Taxi & Limousine Commission.

the WorkerS moSt AffeCted BY WorkplACe VIolAtIoNS


Largely immigrant workforce, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and sev- eral other countries. Only 2 –3% of drivers are female; these are concentrated in livery cab segment.

Immigration status

Mix of documented and undocumented.

INtermedIArIeS plACING WorkerS IN UNreGUlAted JoBS

Training and driving schools are the main intermediaries.


Almost all yellow cab, livery cab, and dollar van drivers are legally classified as independent contractors, meaning they are not covered by most employment and labor laws. However, conditions of work are significantly shaped by strong industry regu- lation, via the city’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (see narrative above). In our substantive (not legal) analysis, these drivers are effectively in an employment relationship, and we evaluate their working conditions accordingly.

Unregulated Work in the Global City, Brennan Center for Justice, 2007


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