Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Call for Unity

I am currently reading  Stephen Ambrose's "D-Day, The Climactic Battle of WW II."  Back in the year 2000 I visited the Normandy  invasion beaches, finding them and the experience both informative and sobering.  The book, which I recommend, provides much further explanation about a stupendous effort toward a goal and just how much organization and cooperation it takes.  The book displays in unflinching detail how one side, the Allied Forces bonded leadership and discipline into a complete coordinated effort while the Germans, fractious and argumentative  allowed themselves to miss the largest invasion armada ever assembled.  Rommel was back in Berlin celebrating his wife's birthday while another commanding general was visiting a girlfriend in Paris. Others, including Hitler, were equally complaisant, either ignoring the obvious or operating from personal agendas that were self-serving and ultimately suicidal. 

Reading this saga of armed conflict unfortunately reminds me of the taxi industry, the taxi army I know so very well.  Currently it seems to me we are acting like the German High Command.  Much ability, much potential exists but we are currently mired in internal squabbles, in minor bickering while our opponents, the for-hire and limo industries are battering us right beneath our noses. While we shout at each other, our opponents wink and toss kisses at the easily infatuated governmental officials, sending them bouquets of roses and heart-shaped boxes of luscious chocolates.

So please consider this a call to arms, a call for commonsense, and finally a call for unity.   Saturday morning the arrival (upper) level at Sea-Tac was engulfed with more town-cars dropping off then I can remember.  Uber and other services are being utilized more and more by our passenger public. While we still have time to successfully defend ourselves, though panic isn't necessary, the alarm bells are ringing and I am asking everyone to heed the warning.

An example of the internecine warfare that is so self-destructive to the industry is Teamsters 117s intervention, backed by the single owners' "Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association, to forestall the introduction of HB 1718.  The Teamsters have instructed the subcommittee Chair (person) to hold up this bill which would assist in halting erroneous Labor & Industry audits that could potentially crush not only the local industry but the industry state-wide. Some estimates say that the total cost of the L&I audits to our industry overall could surpass six million dollars  So why then is Local 117 pursuing this dangerous course.?  Because they are sending a political message to one individual and one individual only.  That the single-owners are endorsing this suicidal course, this slicing-of-their-own-throats says much about misguided leadership.  That this personal vendetta can and will add unnecessary costs to every lease-driver and owner in Seattle and King County appears not to bother them.  This is why I say, enough already!  Unity and dialogue then is the answer, not the now too familiar biting of ones tail and spinning in circles.  Sometimes it seems some amongst our community are intentionally engaged in sabotaging the good work of others.  Or if not that, at least vociferously complaining about everything.  None of this will ever do if we plan on building a strong and lasting foundation for our industry.  Lord knows we have more than enough opposition coming from the outside to always be concerned about internal threats.  Working together can be fun.  Just ask the Boy Scouts!

Myself, I personally have been lobbying on the industry's behalf and will continue to do so, attempting to discover that oft times elusive resolution.  It appears I will be having the opportunity in a few weeks to have an important conversation in Olympia, which I view as a continuation of efforts begun in the spring of last year.  In August a group of us met with the then L&I director.  Much good came from that but with a new administration more pages must be turned. Allow me then to sound slightly perturbed that while many seem to enjoy self-perpetuating histrionics I and others have, and will continue to search for common ground and consensus. My question is, will you join us?  I ask, will you embrace your taxi brothers and sisters and understand that they are not the enemy?  The barbarians are storming the gates.  It is more than time for unity.  It is time for commonsense to prevail.

A Post-Script

Someone not affiliated with the taxi industry requested some clarification about goals and issues.  Quickly, in no particular order, is a list of pressing concerns.

---Governmental indifference

---Governmental interference

---Governmental placating of "for-hire" car industry

---Non-governmental interference

---Rogue & irresponsible drivers

---Lack of governmental regulatory enforcement

---Lack of cooperation between industry figures

---A general lack of industry coordination

---Threat from outside and well-funded entities like Uber and others

---Illegal town car and limousine conduct

---Lack of governmental accommodation and reciprocity

---Confusion concerning association rules and operations

Understand that these are the "tree trunks" and that many "branches" or associated issues exist.  It all at times seems endless. And perhaps it is.

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