Seven years ago, a handful of Chicago cabbie who were fed up by the exploitation by cab companies who were in it with the thieves of the city hall, decided to form a union. Low income and heavy fines in a city that seemed to have forgotten the rights of its mostly immigrant taxi drivers who could no longer survive working under 14 hours shifts. Fayez, 70, born in Khan Yunis in Gaza, is one of the founders and chair of this tiny union. He left Gaza at 19 and later on came to US to pursue education. He started driving taxi since 1979 while in school which became his permanent job. Fayez lived in Algeria in early twenties for a few years and one day at a cafe, was approached by a few French men. They proposed him to act in the film “Battle of Algiers”. Because of his blond hair, he played a French general who gets killed by the Arab militants. His brother still lives in Gaza and has 10 kids. Fayez was in Gaza in 2005 during Israeli withdraw which he last saw them. A few days ago, he called me and asked me to accompany him to a meeting with a national labor union. After these years, this cabbie union had remained small and still quite vulnerable due to obstructions and obstacles. A group of New York taxi union members were also there for support. The national labor union is located at twenty something floor of one of those massive glass high rises in downtown and if it wasn’t for their sign, one couldn’t guess this was their office. Next to their offices are the very companies who themselves contribute to worker’s struggle and some have allegedly dodged massive taxes. After the meeting, in the elevator, I turned to Fayez and New York cabbies and said: With the rent that they’re paying for such fancy office, if they move to where actual workers live, they can spend it on much better causes. They all laughed and one of them said: Young man, if this was the way the world worked, there would be no need for a union and all of this shit.
Chicago – Fall 2014