Doug Schifter, 61. (Black Car News)
Park Row, Manhattan, New York
At 7:10 Monday morning, a livery cab driver drove to the front gate at City Hall, took out a shotgun and committed suicide.
Doug Schifter, just 61, in his suicide note he published on his Facebook page, railed against the lowering rates caused by Uber and Lyft, working two to three times as many hours than when he first started as his earnings remained stagnant, lack of regulations regarding Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) and willful ignorance and shoddy to no regulation initiatives regarding capping leading to the predominance of app-based vehicles on the streets in the past decade and the over-regulations regarding road rules and parking.
Mr. Schifter, in his words and without a doubt sacrificed himself because he was working like a slave for slave wages. Which is the only way for an working person to keep up with the demand and the over-saturated competition in an industry based on instant gratification and a lack of human interaction. An industry that expects people to work like robots just to replace them with robots.
The significance of killing himself in front of City Hall carries huge weight. For his targeting of de Blasio could be based primarily on his Vision Zero policy, which has led to the shortening of roads for underutilized bike lanes and his brazen dismissal of a study about traffic congestion and enhanced and creative traffic enforcement and Cuomo with his browbeating proposal of congestion pricing, which is also being pushed by billion dollar company Uber, that will levy another burdensome tax on cab and livery drivers on their paltry earnings.
The latter eloquently pointed out by Schifter, in the excellently titled “The Fleecing Of The Flock”:
As I have warned in the past, the governments of the City and State are now again seriously”discussing congestion pricing and tolling bridges that are currently free. Governor Cuomo just announced, “The time has come.” Of course it has… the city is in near gridlock now, due to their machinations. First, they intentionally created the congestion, now they are using it as a flimsy excuse to justify the fees. If it wasn’t so disastrous it would be funny.
Cuomo is saying all of the congestion pricing proceeds will go towards fixing and maintaining the subways. The subways already get the tax revenue from your phone and data plan, and fees charged by the Port Authority at the airports to passengers and aircraft. Many other hidden taxes go to the subways, as well as tolls. The Port Authority buys the trains and buses, and leases them to the MTA for a dollar. The agency that was once caught “cooking its books” to get more money will now get even more money…
If the subways got a trillion dollars a year, they would somehow find a need for more. It’s a bottomless hole that politicians love to try to fill. If the Port Authority buys the equipment, where is all the money going?
We are being targeted as a cash cow by the government, milking us here there and everywhere we go. All of the agencies want our blood money.
The problems it generates are onerous. The cost of taxes and tolls, and soon drop-off and pickup fees are that they are driving up rates for customers who do not want to pay more. The customers cannot deny the government’s charges, but they can refuse to pay drivers more. The customers’ bills are increasing just as ours are, but we cannot get paid more because government agencies take that money instead, in the way of ever-increasing tolls, plus the tax the clients pay that no one else does – and soon airport fees, too. Black cars based in NYC are the only form of transportation paying that tax.
The government is continuing its strong drive to enslave us with low wages and extreme fines. It’s a nightmare, and one can’t help but wonder: When will this stop? I guess if the governor, mayor and TLC keep creating rules where we don’t need them, and refuse to make rules that might actually help our industry get back on its feet, they will find the answer. If they decimate the industry and kill their cash cow, everyone loses, including them.
We can only hope it doesn’t come to that, but that does seem to be the road we’re heading down, unfortunately.
Unfortunately, for Mr. Schifter the prospect was too much to bear witness too. But if this was the last straw for the late driver, being that he wrote that post a little over 2 months ago, he was victimized on the job by a bunch of human garbage riding around on bicycles, harassing him and damaging his vehicle just like the incident in Chelsea involving a gang of 30 kids last Saturday. Which he chronicled on his sardonically titled post “What A Wonderful Life”
A few weeks ago, while driving across town to get my passenger to the bus terminal, I was blocked from proceeding on West 42nd Street in Times Square. A group of teenage bicyclists were in the right lane blocking it, and would not move. I blew the horn and they ignored it. I got out of the car and yelled for the police but there were none there.
One of the guys blocking the road started circling my vehicle, kicking it everywhere. I was wondering when NYPD would respond, considering how many cameras are there, and it being a hot terrorist target. The NYPD always makes a big show of their presence there, but I guess they were all out writing tickets at the time my vehicle was assaulted and my passenger terrorized. I could not go without running over the creeps. So, I had to wait for an opportune moment, then drove out of the predicament. Good thing I was not a terrorist with a machine gun. Hundreds would have been dead before the NYPD would have dropped their ticket books to assist.
This should confirm, yet again, the pervasive indifference and lack of enforcement going on the city right now. Except when it comes to aggressive arbitrary ticketing and time consuming court appearances as Mr. Schifter and certainly many others in his field has experienced.
This suicide should be getting major national and international attention. Somehow the news of this tragedy did not make the evening news that day (although the NY Post did a front page story and Democracy Now covered it today). What would have truly garnered attention is if he didn’t blow his own brains out but instead came out of his car and hit the target of his blame for his deteriorated livelihood instead. Fortunately for the mayor he was already heading to Albany to defend his irresponsible budget plan and odious personnel decisions and Schifter is obviously a man of scruples to kill himself instead of committing a heinous immoral act of murder.*
Schifter made a statement that should be the canary in a coalmine of the tech industry’s unethical, immoral practices and their disruption of an industry and workforce. As if the stories of professional drivers sleeping in their cars in parking lots and the lunatic mission of these idiot TNC’s to get driverless cars on the street and highways. His existential plight of his suffering later years and brutally tragic ending makes him the first victim of neoliberal policies pushed by the lobbyists of these overvalued TNCs and the star-crossed and money-grubbing elected officials who ratify them and provide them security by ignoring their brazen transgressions and treatment of everyone they employ (since they outright refuse to call them employees).
Most of all. Doug Shifter has become the app-based economy’s and this century’s Willie Loman. This man and his martyrdom should never be forgotten and thrown down the memory hole for his disruption and exposure of the inherent and enabled corruption of these tech companies. And all tech companies with similar practices and policies.
*This is a hypothesis. It is NOTa condoning, hope, encouragement or desire for a criminal act as it should clearly be seen. Try not to misinterpret even though it’s super easy to.