Friday, May 18, 2012

A Taxi Union/Alliance Proposal: Protection, Intervention & Advocacy

Again always again I am up against the clock.  My taxi weekend is quickly approaching and wanted to hit the hay by 8:00.  Now I have pushed that back to 9:00 PM with doubts I will be able to do that.  Regardless I will get this done.  What you will be reading is the complete union/alliance outline I finished this morning and sent out to various taxi folks.  In a moment I will tell you what prompted this flurry of activity.  I do consider all that is occurring to be very important otherwise I would be devoting my hours to something slightly more pleasant like reading all those books I have stacked beside the bed.

Wednesday afternoon I went down to the Sea-Tac Yellow taxi airport feeder lot to visit my old taxi colleague Gurminder K. Together we led the fight against  Ron Sims and King County a few years back and have remained in contact. I had gotten word that he and others airport drivers had contacted the Teamsters and I wanted to know more about it.  I have found this extremely curious because the Teamster union was our enemy 4 years ago as they were in cahoots with Ron Sims and his "Green Cab" shenanigans.  How in the world did they suddenly become our ally?  I both had some questions and wanted to voice my opinion.

The long and short of it twice Gurminder got good trips, the last to Tacoma, and then as taxis will do, the car's water pump went out.  Was it all a Teamster plot?  Anyway, come Monday I will tell you about my conversation with him and other drivers I found at Guru Auto Repair. Boy! I initially  got a very stern reception.  Lucky for me I had my body armor on!

Before I present the outline, I want to address something she-who-will-not-be-named said about it, saying I didn't present enough reasons for a union/alliance to exist.  As I say in the draft, this is all preliminary and certainly open to additions and subtractions but regardless of that I will swiftly go over purposes.

Protection against association mismanagement and governmental bureaucratic overreach, including local police authorities. This of course is a traditional union function, to protect membership and ensure due process.

Intervening when necessary which could mean something as simply supplying legal representation for a member to heading down to the state capital and lobbying for our interests.  In other words, righting wrongs which most taxi drivers and owners would find very helpful.

And providing advocacy for a much maligned and misunderstood industry and profession.  We need to dispel the myths and misconceptions associated with taxi driving.

These three categories alone would keep any new taxi organization extremely busy.  That is why I say any union/alliance would be a 24/7 operation.  It can be no other way.  Now for the draft.

                                              Taxi Union/Alliance Outline/Draft

Please note, this is meant to be a preliminary outline/rough draft for a proposed Seattle/KC taxi union/taxi alliance owner & lease driver representative organization.  Prior to any legal certification and licensing, much open discussion must ensue forming and structuring any final and agreed upon document. Any potential union/alliance will and must represent fully without bias all of the 3000 plus drivers and owners currently recognized to be part of the functioning taxi industry in Seattle & King County. Any future union/alliance will be a completely transparent organization, with all and any operational officers and representatives subject to he rank and file membership and subject to all rules and regulations regarding censure and termination that might be determined in any future permanent organizing document. Equally, rank and file will be subject to same requirement outlined in same future document.  A working philosophy will recognize the value of all, one person one vote despite status or tenure.  Attitudes of class superiority and caste will not be allowed. Age, race & gender and other such discriminatory distinctions or biases will not be allowed.  The union/alliance goal will always be complete equality and impartiality, everyone brothers and sisters holding equal standing beneath the top-light.  

How this will occur is an organization answerable to itself; one welcoming internal and external scrutiny.  I envision an organization designed to respond to every potential problem, from the smallest traffic infraction to sweeping legislative reform.  An organization that will work with association management not as a rival but as a cooperative partner honestly seeking just and fair solutions to whatever problem or issue presented.  The intention is to be responsive, to quickly work toward resolution overcoming any inhibiting obstacles. All this will be achieved by having a connected and engaged rank and file.  Without an involved and active membership nothing can be achieved. The reward will be a new efficiency and perhaps mutual financial profitability as one assists the other toward cooperative enterprise benefiting all.

Suggested Structure

A titular governing officer, with renewable one year annual terms, based upon a thorough rank and file review.

An eight member governing board, all with renewable one-year terms. Each board member would be assigned specific duties and responsibilities, for instance driver complaints.

Minimum qualifications would be holding a current taxi for-hire license and still actively driving. Yes even the president would be required to drive the occasional shift, the philosophy, removing all pretense of class superiority, again, everyone equal beneath the top-light.

All major decisions and votes will be referred to the rank and file for approval or rejection after first being debated and voted upon by the governing board.  Rank and file may refer any and all ideas and proposals to the governing board for consideration.  All requests must and will receive a posted and formal reply.

Per last paragraph, all lines of communication: email, telephone, mail, and personal one-on-one contact will be available to rank and file 24/7.  Just like the taxi industry, the union/alliance will be operational 7 days a week.  Lawyer representation will be available immediately.  No longer will the driver stand alone.  That message in itself should eliminate much of the mischief generated by local government and law enforcement. Liaison and ties to local press and media will further strengthen industry image and position.

Rank and file meetings will be held monthly.  Monthly reports will be sent by email in additional to any and all hourly or daily notifications.  Annual reports will be sent by both email and regular mail.

Dues & Fees

Dues will be decided by the membership per rank and file discussion and debate.  Since the membership will be the ones paying for the union/alliance, they will make the decisions concerning funding.  Where in the past, everyone has been told what will happen and the associated costs, the union/alliance will instead put decision making into the hands of those most directly affected.  This teaches that responsibility accompanies one person,one vote.  One major goal will be to eliminate complacency and disaffection, possibly the worst afflictions facing the industry.  Individual involvement will be the key component to any and all success and progress.  All this will lead to personal empowerment eliminating justification and excuse and all other  psychogocial ruses designed to confuse and depress and disenfranchise individual volition.  The union/alliance will be a celebration and embracing of the individual, the driver no longer a faceless number beneath the top-light.

Any and all bylaws are to be determined though they should all contain the same standard of complete transparency and accountability.  This union/alliance must bear the recognition that each individual member is the core foundation of the organization.  One building block upon the other stretching up and down: a building, a house, a dwelling. If necessary, responsibility will be taught and always encouraged.  Again, the union/alliance constitution and governing rules and bylaws will be framed by individual justice and personal rights and freedoms. Any union/alliance can not just be a replacement for past inefficiency and injustice.  Instead it has to be a new direction, a new and positive approach eliminating any and all prejudice and operational negativity.  Idealism must be the shining sun, individual accountability the grounding foundation and principal.  Together we shall succeed.  Divided we will fail.  An d failure will never be our goal.


As in any theoretical venture, theory must become fact.  That thought is inescapable. The reason we are at this juncture is because the industry has never worked nor functioned as a collective unit. A union/alliance can do that but it will take much work and determination.  Putting our living and our lives in the hands of strangers is insensible to me. I actually find it incomprehensible that anyone could think, given industry history with non-industry folk, that industry rookies are our salvation. What a naive approach. It is time to recognize that there is a steep learning curve concerning taxi driving.  It can not be learned in one or two years.  As I look around the local industry I see a core of outstanding and extremely capable individuals who contain the ability to keep the vessel taxi on course.  Let us utilize our homegrown talent.  And yes let us take charge of our own destinies.  We can and will manage our industry, removing the feeling and the sometimes actual reality that someone else is dictating our future for us.

Again, shall we finally become truly united without the past division and bickering?  I lay out the challenge to say let the good and hard work begin. Yes let us organize but let us also be sensible.  We must do it correctly and lay down the proper foundation.  Only then shall we reach the goals of industry autonomy that everyone claims to want and achieve.  It can be done.   The question is, shall we do it?

Okay, that's it.  A bit didactic perhaps but that is intentional. All errors  missed will be repaired on Monday. Good night!



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