Uber Was Killing His Livelihood, So He Killed Himself

'New York Magazine' looks at the rise and fall of Doug Schifter
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2018 9:03 AM CDT
Updated May 20, 2018 2:00 PM CDT
Uber Was Killing His Livelihood, So He Killed Himself
In this March 15, 2017, file photo, an Uber car drives through LaGuardia Airport in New York.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

"I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead." So read a line in the suicide note left by Doug Schifter, a 61-year-old who had for four decades driven cabs and black cars in New York City and who in February took his own life in a protest against Uber and what it had done to his livelihood. At New York Magazine, Jessica Bruder paints a deep picture of the man, who over the course of his life drove "the equivalent of more than 180 times around the Earth," with, he said, the likes of Billy Crystal and other famous folks in his car at times. He called himself a "street legend," one who purchased his own taxi medallion in the early '80s for $55,000 before moving on to driving for black-car services a decade later and bringing in enough money to buy a home in the Poconos in 2004.

There, "he made the place his sanctuary, setting up a hammock on the back deck and building a library of 400 cookbooks. He made ice cream, baked bread, and marinated meat for barbecue, an obsession for which he’d amassed three smokers, a kamado-style ceramic grill, a commercial deli slicer, and a vacuum sealer." The bliss would be short-lived: A 2005 fall on black ice left him with a serious hip injury, a lengthy recuperation, and no income. More health issues followed, and were ultimately met not by relief, but by the arrival of Uber, which flooded NYC's streets with drivers. By 2017, he had seen his income fall by half though he was working 17-hour days. Then he came upon a plan, an "unavoidable call to arms": suicide. Read Bruder's story in full for more on Schifter's death, its aftermath, and what Uber has wrought on NYC. (More Longform stories.)

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