Taxi Rank and File Coalition Records
Language of Materials
The Taxi Rank and File Coalition (TRFC), an organized group of disenchanted members of the New York City Taxi Drivers Union, Local 3036 was formed on April 15, 1971 in response to efforts by the leadership of the union and the taxi fleet owners to ratify a contract without a membership vote. For nearly seven years, the Coalition fought for a fair contract, better working conditions and a more democratic union. Members opposed what they saw as the autocracy of the founder of the union, Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. The materials in this collection include legal documents, flyers, newsletters, minutes, notes, press releases, correspondence, clippings, conference reports, health committee surveys and songbooks relating to the political and cultural activities of the Taxi Rank and File Coalition. Also included are some materials relating to Taxi Drivers Union Local 3036 and to successor organizations of the TRFC.
The Taxi Rank and File Coalition (TRFC), an organized group of disenchanted members of the New York City Taxi Drivers Union, Local 3036 was formed on April 15, 1971 in response to efforts by the leadership of the union and the taxi fleet owners to ratify a contract without a membership vote. For nearly seven years, the Coalition fought for a fair contract, better working conditions and a more democratic union. Members opposed what they saw as the autocracy of the founder of the union, Harry Van Arsdale, Jr.
TRFC ran a full slate of candidates in the 1971 election, polling a consistent third of the vote throughout the city. In response to alleged corruption, the Coalition filed complaints of over thirty counts of fraud with the Department of Labor. In 1972, the union leadership agreed to binding arbitration of the 1970 contract without a ratification vote in direct violation of the union constitution. TRFC filed a federal lawsuit against the union leadership and won a 1974 court order guaranteeing membership certain rights in ratifying collective bargaining agreements. The union executive board illegally refused to hold elections for garage chairmen and committeemen in 1972 and 1973, claiming lack of funds. In 1974, after yearly appeals to the union leadership failed, TRFC presented 2,500 signatures for the restoration of the committee elections and won a favorable ruling in court. The subsequent elections were marred with irregularities. On May 14 and 15, 1974 TRFC led a strike at the Dover Garage for unfair dismissals. After the dismissed won their jobs back, TRFC fought the proposed fair hike of the Taxi Commission. The Coalition openly supported a radical ideology in the Hot Seat, and on the shop floor.
In addition to running shop elections and initiating several lawsuits against the union leadership, the Coalition focused on the internal development of their organization. TRFC established a health committee, conducted a research project into the history and economics of the industry and organized study groups on the history of the labor movement, focusing on issues pertinent to the industry, such as racism, leasing and gypsy cabs. They published a songbook of original taxi songs and developed a skit that members performed at taxi garages and demonstrations. Their newspaper, Hot Seat, ran for 44 issues with a peak circulation of 10,000.
In July of 1977, the Coalition failed to run a slate of candidates in the election and ended publication of the Hot Seat. As the size of the taxi industry fleet shrank, many members left the union to find work elsewhere and the Coalition ceased to function as a citywide organization. Members of TRFC expressed their regret for not achieving greater victories in the fight against the established leaders of the union and cited their frustrations and fatigue in the fight for a more democratic union. In the fall of 1979, Steve Seltzer and Henry Zeiger, former members of TRFC, organized a successor group, Taxi Workers against a Sellout (TWAS), which continued to oppose the union leadership by campainging their own slate of candidates in subsequent elections. TWAS filed a lawsuit against the union for violating the 1974 court order.
In 1978, the union transferred afflilation to the Service Employees International Union and became the Taxi Drivers and Allied Workers Union, Local 3036, SEIU.
Files are arranged alphabetically.
Organized into 1 series:
I, General Files, 1956-1993.
Scope and Content Note
The materials in this collection include legal documents, flyers, newsletters, minutes, notes, press releases, correspondence, clippings, conference reports, health committee surveys and songbooks relating to the political and cultural activities of the Taxi Rank and File Coalition. As members of the New York City Taxi Drivers Union, Local 3036, the Coalition ran in several shop and citywide elections to expand rank and file bargaining rights. The bulk of the materials focus on these campaigns and the subsequent legal battles against the entrenched union leadership and taxi fleet owners. In 1974, the Coalition openly espoused a radical ideology and a small number of materials reflect their emerging radicalization and encounters with outside taxi unions and socialist organizations around the country. The collection also includes financial records of Local 3036 and taxi Industry benefit funds and some papers of successor organizations, Taxi Workers against a Sellout and the Lease Drivers Defense Fund.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Taxi Rank and File Coalition were transferred to New York University in 2001 by Steven Seltzer. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, (212) 998-2630.
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Joyce Ravitz and Henry Zeiger in 1991. Additional donations made by Steven Seltzer in 2001 and 2004. The accession numbers associated with these gifts are 1978.006, NPA.2000.259, and NPA.2001.078.