In our previous research, we have identified several barriers that pose challenges to our team as we pursue our vision of “the public option.” These barriers include limited resources and workers having limited control over the design of work systems, among others. While we have successfully overcome some of these obstacles, the lack of public support in terms of contracts, policies, and infrastructure remains the most significant hurdle to achieving economic democracy in the taxi industry.

Past research has already highlighted the struggles faced by taxi cooperatives when competing against rideshare companies in the open market, mainly due to intense price competition. In light of these challenges, organizations like UTWSD and UTCO have made a strategic decision to refrain from direct competition with Uber and Lyft. Instead, they are focusing their efforts on influencing public procurement processes for on-demand transportation, aiming to prioritize worker equity.

As an ICDE fellow researcher, my work will build upon their efforts by exploring how workers can intervene in the ongoing collaborations between the state and the market, particularly through neoliberal procurement processes, to advance their interests. I will delve into the critical role played by worker advocacy organizations rooted in marginalized communities and shed light on the support they require to effectively realize the vision of economic democracy.

Udayan Tandon is a 4th Year Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He is advised by Dr. Lilly Irani and is part of the Feminist Labor Lab, Just Transitions Initiative, and The Design Lab at UCSD. As a researcher he draws on methods of participatory action research and community-based participatory research and lenses of platform studies, social justice oriented design, economic democracy, and the political economy of innovation. He has been working with United Taxi Workers San Diego (UTWSD), an organization of immigrant and refugee-led taxi drivers, striving to unify taxicab workers towards improving working conditions, and improving professional transportation services in San Diego. Embedded in their day-to-day work of achieving an app-enabled taxi cooperative platform, his work oscillates between designing, configuring, analyzing, negotiating, and organizing to facilitate UTWSD’s work in reaching their goals.