In 2011, the National Taxi Workers Alliance made history when it became the fifty-seventh affliate of the AFL-CIO. It was the first time that a group of independent contractors, drivers who don’t even work for an hourly wage, gained affiliation with the nation’s oldest labor federation.
That same year, Republican legislators and governors went after traditional labor, passing laws that undermined collective bargaining not only in Wisconsin, but also in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Tennessee and many other states.
Not since the passage of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act have we seen such concerted attempts to undermine the rights of workers to negotiate collectively. Bhairavi Desai says, “Capital is unbelievably aggressive. They are unapologetic and they remain creative and they don’t take no for an answer. Neither can we as a movement.”
The taxi drivers don’t have collective bargaining rights yet, nor are they covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act which protects some workers’ rights to safe working conditions and overtime pay. But Desai is hopeful that affiliation with the AFL-CIO will help both parties:
“We are establishing ourselves as a mass base independent democratic workers organization, and through our association with the AFL-CIO [we are] building our political power, our numbers, our strength our resources to one day win collective bargaining.”
And the Alliance is bringing a strong radical tone. The “good old boys” of labor seem to like it. Last week at the 2013 Convention, more history was made when Desai, was elected to a seat on the AFL-CIO Executive Council. Desai spoke with GRITtv about why the inclusion of this independent contractors’ organization within the nation’s largest labor union federation is such a very big deal.