Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Letter to a Councilmember & More Ordinary Plus More Books

I always keep saying I am going to write a letter about this and that and this time I have.  After last week's public hearing I knew it was necessary to provide more information to the Seattle city council.  The following letter concerning Council Bill 117465 was sent via "snail" mail to Tim Burgess who is currently steering the "Government Performance & Fiance Committee."  The idea of sending an actual physical letter is simple.  Holding a document in your hand is far more personal than reading a screen.  Holding a book or letter develops a relationship with the subject that can not be attained any other way.  Even when the book or letter or card is put down it still exists.  Its presence is known unlike the shutting off of a screen.  Though I am writing upon one at this very moment I despise screens.  Here is the entire letter minus headings that I sent to Burgess on June 7th, 2012.

Hello.  I wish to convey my appreciation for your committee's consideration of matters of such great importance to the local taxi industry.  Given that the full councils' vote could actually have an impact heard statewide, I am taking a few minutes to provide yet more background to a confounding issue, namely whether independent taxi contractors are employees stemming from a new definition or as they are generally viewed, independent business owners.  As I said in my too quick minute yesterday, this question must be fully and correctly answered because it is the heart of the Labor & Industry issue.  The meter rate is the "knee connected to the thighbone" but is this entire issue truly part of the taxi anatomy or is it somehow being manufactured, the good folks at L&I taking the role of mad fiscal scientists and the statewide taxi contractors the unwitting objects of their experimentation.?  That I believe L&I have made us into an "artificial creation" is beyond question.  Their brethren at the Department of Revenue view us as independent business owners.  Do these public servants ever speak to each other?  It appears doubtful.  Now the background to the situation, the facts creating and providing the foundation of a sorry saga that threatens to become an epic.  An additional subtext is that an earlier personal intervention on my part appears to have influenced Labor & Industry to halve their original request.  Few of the drivers and owners appear to understand that they could be looking at rates double what are being requested.

How did the industry reach this juncture?  Why was SBHB 1367 ever written and passed?  None of this is accidental.  It all originates from a Labor & Industry attitude taken in part  from State Title 51 that created a broad category called "covered workers."  I am not the complete historian but I believe this all dates from the second decade of the twentieth century relating to injured and killed loggers and mill workers.  I would seek clarification upon this and other questions from Labor & Industry.  Let's just say that for years they have been looking at the taxi industry with a jaundiced eye.  A few years back they began auditing the industry and coming up with outrageous estimates.  I believe they said BYG (Yellow) was liable for a cool million.  Even tiny (3 taxis) Redi-Cab in Yelm/Lacey is still looking at about $234,000 dollars.  This is how they got every ones attention.  And now all of us are dealing with the subsequent industry response.  That the industry acquiesced to this kind of bureaucratic bullying and blackmail is clear.  Why they did is twofold.

They were told there there could be a compromise and that it was guaranteed, as long as the industry cooperated.  A good practice is to make sure that all promises are put on paper and signed and notarized.  Otherwise those guarantees can forever vanish into the Capital Dome which is exactly what happened, Labor & Industry kicking the industry while it was most vulnerable.  The industry was operating in good faith, wanting to avoid the past audits, which was the promise made. Instead Labor & Industry has gotten the last laugh and just about three weeks ago sent out notices that money was still owed, not just beginning from January 1st of this year as the industry thought it had agreed to.

And secondly, the statewide industry wanted to avoid a costly and protracted battle.  This would have meant marshaling in part the independent contractors as an important part of the legal defense.  As you might have noticed yesterday, even after listening to Mister Jenkins few in the assembled audience appeared to understand the greater consequences of potential council decisions, for again this is all about independent contractors and no one else.  As in the manner most of the companies and associations are currently operated, none of them act as employers.  The guarantee we receive is the ability to search for fares in rented equipment and hopefully make a living.  From the L&I perspective, perhaps home renters should be suing because a given apartment or house is somehow not creating a happy household.  To me, L&I are using a distorted and fanciful logic.  And now they are telling you at the city council to rubber stamp their imaginary ruminations.

Which is why I hope both Seattle and King County Councils engage the folks in Olympia in some serious conversation; asking questions that need to be answered.  One you could ask is something I have already put forth, and that is just why haven't they ever contacted the independent contractors to suggest signing up for Labor & Industry insurance?   When have they ever put their concern in writing addressed to me and the 3000 or more lease drivers in Seattle and King County?   I also suggest that your committee begin contacting taxi companies throughout the state for their opinion.  As I have implied this is far more than a simple question of meter rates and lease increases in Seattle and King County.   This Labor & Industry opinion affects everyone which is why I question overall their fairness.  In order to help they simultaneously have to cause massive pain and suffering?  An interesting approach and one I hope you find worth investigating.  Thank you.

That's it, end of the probing missive.  As usual more time taken would have made it an even more effective document.  But currently my life is all about not having enough time.  The past two nights I respectively slept 10 1/2 and 11 hours.  A full recovery from my taxi weekend required it.  Taxi is a brutal body blow.  That is how it is.  Now another quick tale from the just past weekend.  Too much of this political stuff for my taste.  Much better to talk about drunks, wouldn't you agree?  Far more amusing!

More Ordinary:  Observant Alcoholics

Picking up at the Thunderbird Tavern, that adjunct to the Sands Strip Club, four very intoxicated individuals piled into the cab.  The sodden party were accompanied by a group of escorting friends, one of whom gave me a twenty dollar bill to cover the cost of taking these harmless ruffians for about a mile northwest of the tavern.  Once there, one of the group quickly ran around a corner to vomit.  That left it to two of the remaining three, all women, to get a nearly comatose friend up the walkway and up a steep flight of stairs.  Since I had been overpaid and Mister Regurgitate tipped me three dollars I felt it best to assist the zombie up the stairs.  Having much practice I got her up to the door.  They all thanked me and said I had my pants zipper open.  Just pleased they were all paying attention!

A Pint of Books

Interesting measurement?  Monday taxi buddy Frank had his sixtieth at the Blue Moon.  Even a solitary pint was enough to send me reeling.  Exiting I understood I shouldn't be driving for a few minutes so I ambled a few blocks down to the local Half-Price Bookstore.  For just over the cost of that pint I found two brand new books, "Gods, Mongrels & Demons" by Angus Calder and "The Moral Imagination" by Gertrude Himmelfarb.  Really pleased to have them.  Thanks Frank! and Happy Birthday!




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