Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is It Time To Form A Taxi Union? & Transporting A Secret Agent To Tacoma

Last week the courts ruled that Seattle efforts to allow taxi and flat-rate and Uber drivers to unionize can now go forward, recent attempts to halt the process by both the United States Chamber of Commerce and a small group of Uber drivers having been turned down.  While this is a potential victory for local independent driver operators, I am suggesting that we in the taxi industry begin our organizing efforts sooner than later because I expect more upcoming legal efforts to stymie this kind of unionization. Why does corporate America want to stop a handful of drivers trying to control their personal destiny?

Because, if successful, it clearly holds national implications which scare Uber, Lyft and any other ersatz taxi-like service.  That they want to hold their drivers beneath their corporate thumbs should not be doubted.  If organized, it will cost Uber money, something they truly do not want to share with their drivers.  Again, Uber has reported a quarterly operational loss of over 600 million dollars, making them more suspect with their investors.  As someone at Wall Street might say, this is no way to keep a corporate romance alive, that first kiss suddenly stale.

And I should emphasize that this same attitude can be applied to our local taxi associations.  Do you ever feel powerless to change anything at Yellow, Orange or Farwest,--- money, the making of money for their personal profit seemingly their primary priority?  While this kind of indentured servitude does hold some advantages, the fact that we have little option but to accept what is dished out daily is something that should change, regardless of any kind or variety of unionization.

And yesterday a driver told me something, that while unverified, is very interesting about Puget Sound Dispatch (PSD) finances.  He told me that he and others figured out that PSD (Seattle Yellow Cab), after taking in account salaries and other operating expenses, is earning $200,000 monthly in after-expense profits, adding up to two million & four hundred thousand dollars.

To where and to whom these potential profits are going is something that should be known, especially since we at Yellow are experiencing the worst summer business-wise in 20 years. As all of us know, we all pay $10.00 per week for advertising, something I have personally yet to see anywhere.  If anyone driving at Yellow believes they are getting their money's worth, both through dispatch and media advertising, please hold up your hand.  But please, not with an extended middle finger.

My last comment about unionizing is that any new union should be run and controlled by the cabbies themselves.  Being babysat by Teamsters Local 117 is not the answer.  While officials there are good people and well meaning,  they do not and can not understand our shared reality.  And what will be my role in any effort toward unionization?  Given personal time restraints, like selling my place and moving and focusing on getting my newest book published, I am still willing to assist in working toward some functional structure and framework.  Again, I know this needs to happen.  Do you agree?

Working with Putin?

He was walking shirtless down East Marginal Way South near the Areo Motel looking for a taxi. Waving his hand, I stopped and the gentleman indicated he wanted to go south to Tacoma.  "Great, I responded, "Money up front and off we go."  As I turned 1092 around, he told me to make sure we weren't being followed, saying he would pay for any necessary detours.

Putting his shirt back on, he proceeded to tell he was on a mission and some nefarious parties were attempting to stop him, in additional to warning me not to answer my cell phone because he might have to kill me.  He also told me me that just 4 days previous, Vladimir Putin himself  had the secret agent's new wife flown to Seattle, the agent finding this all very exciting.

Responding back "That this was all fine." the secret agent slid down in the back, curled up and thankfully fell asleep.  Nearing his requested destination, Tacoma Community College, I woke him up, and rubbing his eyes awake , announced we had just shared an important historical moment. "Glad to hear it," was my thought.

Putting his socks and boots back on, he departed 1092 but not before leaving me with additional words of spy wisdom.  Most importantly for me, he left me a new $100.00 bill, the agent carrying a roll of one-hundred dollar bills tucked in a sock.

Having ignored her calls twice, I called "she-who-can't-be-named" back, quickly describing what had just occurred.  "Are you making this up?" she exclaimed, but no, I swear, this account is completely non-fiction, written and composed by disturbance translated into madness and now delivered to you through the world-wide web.  How exciting, wouldn't you agree, spy work just for you hot off the taxi presses!

Postscript August 30th, 2017

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit entered a temporary stay yesterday against the City of Seattle ordinance permitting unionization by taxi and other for-hire drivers.   A more permanent decision might occur as early as next week.  I also have two new pieces of information that I find somewhat disturbing.

Eastside-for Hire has joined with Uber to form something called "Drive Forward," which appears to be some kind of advocacy group promoting the current status quo, meaning independent operators would remain under corporate control minus any real option or legal recourse and appeal.  Especially in the labor situation with Uber, drivers remain quasi employees minus the rights and benefits of actual employees.  Does Uber, Lyft and other such companies want people's labor on the cheap, interested only in corporate profit and not the actual well-being of their independent operators?  I'll let you answer that.

More troubling information that's new to me is currently, the way the law was initially written, all official organizing efforts must begin with one labor body, that being Teamsters Local 117.  While it appears that Local 117 might be open to some alternatives, I am displeased that the Seattle City Council wrote  this kind of limitation into the ordinance in the first place.  What were they thinking, or were they thinking at all?

Stay tuned.


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