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Since October 2017, eight professional drivers have died by suicide in New York City (that we know of). This is the most visceral manifestation of the immense pressure the cab industry is currently under, thanks to the mostly unrestrained growth of ridesharing. Doug Schifter was a black car driver who wrote a column, “The Driver’s Seat” for the trade publication Black Car News. He became one of the casualties on February 5, 2018. Selections from Schifter’s columns, as well as his suicide note, are read by his brother George to narrate Field of Vision’s new documentary short Days of Black and Yellow.
Schifter’s words, distorted through a ghostlike recording, conjure a grim picture of labor under assault by an under-regulated competitor. “I’m making half as much as I used to, and it’s not getting any better. When I started out, driving was a job you could build a life on. Drivers had some dignity. We earned a reasonable living because the number of vehicles was kept below public demand. The city regulated — maybe over-regulated — things, and there was enough for everyone.” His somber reflection is harshly contrasted with the casual pitilessness of chipper news show pundits reporting on how companies like Uber are thriving. “If you can’t make enough money driving, find something else to do, right?” smirks one Fox Business ghoul. Directors Lotfy Nathan, Willie Miesmer, and Ray Levé provide a vivid encapsulation of a vital contemporary labor issue in under ten minutes. Hyperallergic has the exclusive premiere of the film, which you can stream above.