Sunday, January 6, 2019

Owner Uprising At Seattle's Yellow Cab?

Sometimes people have just had enough of being wronged, or taken for granted, or even worst, not recognized for the human beings they are, worthy of respect, equality and fair treatment.  In my 30-year long tenure with Seattle's taxi industry, it has always been clear that the driver, and more lately, the single owner, was and is considered expendable, not unlike a military's view of its personnel, sending soldiers into battle knowing many will expire but understanding battle's must be won and people will die, and that's just how it is, the Commanding Officers confident soldiers lost can be easily replaced, attrition a part of any war.   Equating that to Seattle's local taxi association as a whole, company and individual profit has always been the goal minus passenger and driver well-being and satisfaction, buttering their own slice of bread their solitary focus.  Any honest person acknowledges that.  It is no secret.

So yesterday a sizable group of Seattle Yellow Cab single owners got together to collectively say that they have had enough of being exploited, of being Puget Sound Dispatch's "cash cow," that PSD's diminished (and disappearing) customer services, along with a waning and deleterious business model and customer base, is not acceptable, and quick resolution is both required and necessary.  That I am sitting here writing in a favorite coffee shop instead of working says everything about their complaints, Yellow's telephone system inoperable most of this day, Sunday, incapable of taking customer's orders.  How can you make a living when the very system you are depending on, and paying $180.00 per week for, is not working?

This is why many are saying "enough is enough," we can't do this any more, that something has to change, and change now.  One owner put it succinctly by saying "We start working at 3:00 AM and have to work to 7:00 PM to make any money.  When do we time to spend with our families?" And how can you disagree, when drivers say they want to do something more than working themselves to death?  Others said "This is America, we have rights!"  This is especially forceful given that everyone in that room, other than me, came from countries suffering under authoritarian, dictatorial governments.  In other words, since they escaped from madness, they are not interested in being manipulated by Yellow Cab, having enough of despotic government.

The question I want answered regards PSD's revenue stream.  What are their monthly operational costs versus monthly gross income?  Why this is important is due to the owner's need to know where their hard earned money is going.  Everyone knows that primary owners raked in millions of dollars during Yellow's "salad days," the era before Uber and Lyft took over.  While no one argues that PSD shouldn't operate in the black, any current profit, after covering costs should be put back into both building up business and providing all the long suffering owners and lease-drivers with some much needed economic relief.  Where is empathy, one might ask?  Does it exist?

Other prime concerns were about how the City of Seattle & King County regulate us, charging what many feel are onerous fees and charges.  Another question is why have they limited our insurance company options, that by limiting us to only Grade A firms we are paying more than cabbies in other cities.   What bothers me about Seattle & KC regulators is their refusal to regulate the associations.  Us, they have no problem, punishing us for the most trivial offenses.  But the taxi associations can do what they want minus oversight.  How is this fair?  It isn't, and don't try to say it is.

Others said they wanted taxis plates changed to an exempt status in recognition of our public transit status, allowing us to use bus lanes and HOV lanes where we are currently barred.  That WAT (wheelchair) cabs hold that ability is viewed as unequal and unfair, knowing we will be ticketed while our WAT brethren remain exempt.

What will come from all this is anyone's guess but labor actions and legal response could certainly follow.  It is a simple matter of resolve.  But hopefully PSD will response appropriately, recognizing that compromise is the best choice.  Personally that is what I think will occur but I am naturally an optimist, thinking that commonsense can and will prevail.  We will see is all I can say.

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