You are probably reading it here first, an exclusive scoop. Yesterday afternoon, twenty taxi and flat-rate for hire stakeholders, including two Teamsters Local 117 representatives, were there in a meeting with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and his advisers. I obviously wasn't on the guest list but why, I ask you, would you want a local taxi reporter asking pertinent questions? I can understand that. As far as I know, not one lease-driver attended.
If true, it was a glaring omission, given that we, over three-thousand strong, make up the vast majority of the taxi industry community. Its past time this parental attitude, viewing lease-drivers as taxi children, be forever suspended and gotten rid of. It is derogatory and part of the problem. Assuring that lease-drivers are legally empowered must be part of any permanent settlement. There can be no other option. When the City and County mandated association membership, they unthinkingly created a system negating lease-driver, independent operator's rights. The association's don't speak for the lease driver and how can they? They are independent businesses, just like the lease-drivers are, each holding individual business licenses. Though certainly working together cooperatively, still each party hold sometimes opposing agendas. It is time this is recognized.
Rumor has it Mayor Murray and his entire advisory staff walked out of the meeting in a huff, and only after some persuasion, returning later to the forum. What I am surprised about is that they, the Mayor's office, agreed to meet at all. I am completely guessing it was the Union's handiwork, their political firepower retaining some influence.
Sources tell me little was achieved, discontent voiced that "the City will be doing nothing for the taxis." Nothing new here, everyone, from the mayor to the council, relaying that message loud and clear. Anyone who has driven by SafeCo field since the baseball opener can tell you that yet again the City of Seattle has made no provisions allowing fans to be legally dropped off or picked up. I have been trying to get a viable stand for too many years now. No, nothing has changed.
Some feel this new situation represents new opportunities. It is clear that the next 3-4 months will distinctly spell out how true that assessment is. As stated previously, this conversation is in its infancy. That some of the parties involved are not interested in talking is truly beside the point. Dialogue in whatever manner has begun. Soon we will see who the eager participants are, and who continue to remain reluctant, joining in with what hopefully are constructive negotiations. Nobody wants to drag anyone kicking and screaming to the bargaining table, not wanting to use earplugs!
In a related development, local news sources have reported today the TNC (ride-share) folks delivered over 36,000 signatures, many more than the required 16,510 needed, putting the recently passed City Council bill restricting and regulating Uber, Lyft and Sidecar operations before a Seattle voter referendum yes or no vote. One positive is the $3.00 per signature paid to the petition gathers, putting a little share change into the pockets of the local impoverished. Now there is a group that could use a little reinforcement and organizing. Teamsters, are you listening?