The United Taxidrivers Community Council (UTCC) was founded in January 2008, representing the unification of the bases of several grassroots taxi driver-led struggles throughout the previous year. Most of these campaigns were active at the time of the inception of the alliance, while others had already achieved a great deal of success. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) played an instrumental role in bringing together the various taxi driver-led struggles that it had already been actively supporting over the past year.
UTCC’s origins lie in the injustices and exploitive working conditions faced by Chicago cabdrivers. In 2006 an organization called the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, attempting to respond to the many complaints they had been receiving from the Muslim cabdrivers here in Chicago about unfair treatments at the hands of the City of Chicago, approached progressive allies who could assist them in the endeavor to address these issues. They found the American Friends Service Committee a willing partner. The AFSC is a faith-based human rights organization with a long history and track record of involvement in successful campaigns for social justice all over the country and the world.
The AFSC made a commitment by hiring some organizers, training them, and setting up the Taxi Workers Organizing Project (TWO Project). This project began doing research into the nature of the exploitation of taxi drivers here in Chicago, identified possible solutions, and attempted to recruit leaders and activists amongst Chicago cabdrivers who would be willing to work with them to address these issues and reform the industry here in Chicago.
By the summer of 2007, the conditions of work had gotten so bad that many drivers had begun doing grassroots organizing work (outside of the TWO Project’s organizing) to address the many injustices we face. One such driver called a wildcat strike. The strike energized many to become politically involved, including some current members of the UTCC. On another front, the village of Skokie attempted to ban parking by cabdrivers on their city streets, which resulted in further activism by many drivers. The ticketing of Muslim drivers at O’Hare Airport who were parking briefly to prayer at sunset prayers politicized many others.
In January 2008, the AFSC organizers decided to call together a group of drivers whom they had identified as having a track record of dedicated activism. The goal of this meeting was to see if those assembled could form an organization that would work towards collectively addressing the issues faced by Chicago cabdrivers. At the meeting, a core group of committed activist cabdrivers decided to form a Steering Committee to push the work forward. In the coming weeks this committee would become the United Taxidrivers Community Council (UTCC), envisioned as a mass, grassroots, membership-based organization, founded on democratic principles and transparency as embodied in our Mission Statement and Code of Conduct.