My first blog posting dates from June 13th of last year, making it a few days from a full year of talking and writing about taxi. I had no idea what it would become but I am pleased with the finished product. I am presenting the real and factual reality that is directly shoved in my face. This is truly a case when fact is indeed stranger than fiction. Maybe that is why I am reading so much non-fiction lately. Fiction just doesn't cut it when you are immersed in life in the manner taxi does, submerging you in the daily confusion of our modern so-called civilized world. If I had any illusions concerning this earthly existence, taxi has dispelled them, replacing them with undeniable reality. Not always fun of course but certainly what we live and breathe. Nothing like the good, old fashioned sock-in-the nose, my nose permanently crooked due to the November 17, 1995 accident I had after the Greytop mechanics assured me that the car was repaired. Ha Ha the joke was on me!
Overview and Analysis
I am plainly tired due to the various proceedings of the past two weeks. I am afraid I might have directly expired if I had attended yesterday's brief Seattle city council discussion concerning meter rate increases. Tuesday's meeting with the young assistant told me that I have lost all patience with bureaucratic nonsense. I am just not interested in participating with what I see clearly as nonsensical gibberish. Turning in circles is a boring activity. The local taxi industry, both here in Seattle and King County and Tacoma and statewide is in a major crisis. Though certainly desirable, repealing SBHB 1367 does little except bring us back to L&I's initial directive that all taxi driver independent contractors are some version of employee which L&I interprets to mean that someone other than the drivers are responsible for their industry & labor insurance. That is the primary issue. As I have said often recently, I know this as a complete misnomer, even a fabrication of what it means to be an employee. The City of Seattle treats us as independent business operators. The Internal Revenue Service treats us as independent business operators. But despite that, the industry is told by a mere handful of people at Labor & Industry that the contrary is true, and regardless of all evidence, it remains true and that their interpretation alone is the correct definition. I find this unacceptable and if possible, I would run out today and create my own individual L&I account. This is the sole and ultimate answer to the problem presented by L&I. All of the independent contractors should take that responsible step and create their personal L&I accounts. Why is this all so difficult to understand? The truth is it isn't at all.
As I have alluded to, this issue flared into the inferno it has become when the statewide industry failed to tell Labor & Industry to shove it, that your version of the situation is erroneous. Any hint of compromise provided L&I with further openings to continue the conversation. What a serious and profound mistake that was. Any wise taxi driver knows when a passenger is belligerent you tell them the ride is over..You pull over and tell them to get out. Perhaps next time they will learn to be more civil. You never let the bully keep pushing. If not stopped you end up either being knocked on the head or prone upon the ground. That is what happened to the industry, having been bonked upon its collective noggin its been rendered incoherent, into a concussive state.
And the foundation, the bedrock lying beneath this particular issue is the same quaking, the same internal seismic movements of that oft ignored taxi geological feature, the lease-driver or as we are legally known, independent driver contractors. When we are forgotten, then the industry has literally turned off the lights and finds itself groping in the dark. That the drivers themselves keep turning off the light switch says everything about the situation. So what can we do?
Firstly, the industry must recognize that it is a collective enterprise made up EQUALLY of owner and driver, and given that fundamental reality, must always operative collectively, never separately. This will be a difficult state to obtain, given the free-form and inherent nature of taxi driving. But despite obstacles, we must strive and search and REACH that common ground. If we don't, we will forever and a day have governmental agencies dictating to us on how to operate our own industry.
Lastly, we must know when to fight. Clearly this is one of those moments. Given that our opponent believes they have us in a choke hold, we have to twist and contort our legal body out of its grips. We know who and what we are. If we have to go to court to reaffirm our definition, so be it. But to be pushed and slapped and threatened statewide is millions of dollars in L&I assessments is not reasonable. We should not let them do it. We can not let them define our industry. Let us clean up our own house. Let us take care of business that has gone unresolved for years. Everyone, including the lease-drivers, must start taking personal responsibly (instead of the usual whining). If we don't, just as has been happening, we are going to get our asses kicked all the way from Olympia to Seattle and back again. This bully will not relent. It has big governmental boots, taxi just another political football. I say it is our ball to pickup, or to fumble. Are we making the rules, or going along with them? It is as simple as that, and as plain.