Cabbies call for increased safety

Posted: May 12, 2013

About 300 taxi drivers shouted their discontent Friday afternoon as they rallied on Market Street in protest of the slaying and robbery of a cabdriver this week in West Philadelphia.

Shouting "driver power, driver power," the cabbies called for increased safety measures after the shooting death Wednesday of Hafiz Sarfaraz, 33, a driver for All City Taxi Co.

A long queue of taxis, many from All City Taxi, lined the north side of Market from 30th to 32d Streets.

"What happened to Hafiz really shocked a lot of drivers," said Ronald Blount, president of the Taxi Workers Alliance, an umbrella group for cabbies. "Drivers are scared. They don't want to work at night. Drivers are scared to work certain parts of the city now."

Blount and others shouted over a loud speaker amid the thumping of a news helicopter overhead in the noontime sky.

He said many of the drivers do not have health coverage or worker's compensation and that Sarfaraz's family would receive little more than what workers have contributed to help.

Blount said the drivers were calling on state lawmakers to create a fund that would help drivers who are injured on the job and the families of slain drivers.

The money, he said, could be deducted from meters. Blount said such funds exist in Chicago, New York, and other cities.

He said the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which regulates city taxis, should activate cameras that have been installed in cabs, adding that the step would improve the safety of drivers.

Parking Authority attorney Dennis Weldon said there is nothing preventing the use of cameras in cabs now, as long as they don't interfere with the cab's legal operation.

While the PPA could establish regulations requiring cameras in every cab, Weldon said, neither taxi companies, medallion owners, or drivers -- including Blount and his organization -- have pushed for that to happen.

"If everyone is working together, we can definitely achieve that goal," Weldon said.

Sarfaraz, an immigrant from Pakistan, was shot to death Wednesday in an apparent robbery in the 6200 block of Walnut Street. No arrests had been made, police said Friday.

"I have one question for the city of Philadelphia," said Beth Levie, a Washington based organizer for the AFL-CIO. "Where is the love? If there weren't any drivers, the city would not move."

Lance Haver, director of the Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs, also criticized the Parking Authority.

"I mourn with you today," Haver told the drivers. "When it comes to the actual workers, drivers who are out on the street every day, who are literally risking their lives . . . somehow the PPA cannot find a way to take care of your needs."


Contact Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.

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