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 Reader Opinion: The formation of a new cabdriver organization

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Chicago Dispatcher

Posts : 10
Join date : 2008-01-10

PostSubject: Reader Opinion: The formation of a new cabdriver organization   2/4/2008, 11:50 am

From the Chicago Dispatcher, February 2008

Reader Opinion
The formation of a new cabdriver organization

To All Chicago Cabdrivers:

As some of you may have heard by now, I, Peter Ali Enger, and Steve Kim have resigned our positions with the organization AUPD, headed up by Melissa Callahan. I am announcing it here to make it official, open and clear to all in the cabdriver workforce here in Chicago.

However, we wish to make some things very clear to you all. One, our resignation from one particular organization does not mean we have resigned from doing the work of organizing cabdrivers into a mass organization that would promote and defend our rights as workers, citizens, immigrants and human beings. We are still committed to this movement of which we have found ourselves a part. Two, our resignation should not be taken by anyone to mean we have any personal or ultimate strategic differences with Melissa Callahan. We have the utmost personal respect for Ms. Callahan and all she has done and attempted to do for our cabdriver community. Our differences with AUPD were political and philosophical, and we felt we could not work within the framework of AUPD as it was being constituted. We wish Ms. Callahan and her organization well. We all owe her an immense debt of gratitude for her actions and the commitment she has shown us, and for providing concrete examples to us for what is possible in organizing cabdrivers into collective action and political life. Third, we are currently involved in furthering our ideas about building the mass movement and a concrete mass membership organization based upon populism, a democratic process, and transparency about our goals that would unite all the many different communities within the cabdriver workforce in Chicago into one organization.

Recently, we were invited to attend a meeting of activist drivers who have been involved in different campaigns recently in the cabdriver workforce here in Chicago who had exhibited some commitment and persistence in being involved in activist work to address the many issues and injustices facing us. Steve Kim and I agreed to attend this meeting as observers and to meet some of the leaders of the different communities represented there. We found ourselves pleasantly surprised by the passion, dignity and commitment that we observed by the drivers who attended the meeting. There were members from the South Asian community, the Middle Eastern community, the Somali community, and the Korean community, as well as myself and several other European Americans.

At this meeting, which was called by some professional organizers hired by the American Friends Service Committee, who were asked to do so by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, we found enough common ground to agree to form a temporary steering committee that would be called the Chicago Taxidriver Organization (CTO).

After some discussion about who would lead our next meeting, where many people didn't want to volunteer or name a leader due to the idea that it might be seen as self-promoting, we agreed that we needed some form of leadership to provide at least some structure for our future meetings. We decided to ask that the oldest person attending be named our coordinator, or facilitator and this turned out to be Mr. Fayez Khozindar, whom some of you may already know. He has been leading the campaign to resolve the issue concerning ticketing drivers who are praying at the O'Hare staging area.

Chicago cabdrivers! I know what some of you may be thinking. Do we need another driver organization? How many do we have now? How can I choose which one to support? If I have friends in one organization, won't they feel bad, or be mad if I join another one? I believe I can answer these questions.

One: yes we need another organization. We need a MASS organization, a membership organization, based on the principles of internal democratic processes, democratic representation of the many communities that make up the cabdriver workforce in Chicago, and one based on a commitment to struggle to reform the cabdriver industry in the interests of our worker's, citizen's, immigrant's and human rights.

Two: there are at least six organizations that I am aware of now. Most of these are formed as advocacy organizations, and are not intent on building on a mass, grassroots level. We need a mass organization.

Three: I believe that in a true democracy, it is out of many voices and parties that true dialogue and ideological struggle occurs, and the people can have the ability to observe, question, and think about the ideas and practices of the different organizations, and ultimately choose the one that best embodies and expresses their true interests. It is YOU the people, who have the power, the power to think and choose the right organization to represent you and your interests. I believe you will make the right choice, whichever choice you make. Furthermore, I believe that our new formation, the CTO (or whatever name we end up choosing as a permanent organization) has the correct principles and democratic processes to attract and unite all of our cabdriver communities under one umbrella.

Four: Frankly speaking, I don't believe that if we truly want justice and some power over our own lives and working conditions, that personal considerations should make a difference. As I stated at the meeting I attended, I am not willing to compromise my principles in order to remain “friends” with someone. What kind of friendship would that be, anyway? I believe we should put our principles and ideals before any considerations of personalities and friendship. I believe we all should. We would all be better human beings, and we will build a better movement when we do this.

We are a newly formed steering committee, and we do not even have a formal structure or foundation yet. We do have some hope that we can move quickly to open up the process to more involvement by many of you and your communities who are not represented in our core committee at this time. We have many names we have collected over the past few months of organizing that we will be contacting to invite to join and participate in the process we are starting. We have every intention of being inclusive, open and transparent in our decision making process, and we ask you to be patient while we build our foundation to make it easier for more leaders and activists to join in the many campaigns and struggles we anticipate to address our issues and concerns in the near future. Thank you.

Chicago cabdrivers, WE CAN DO IT!
-Peter Ali Enger
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