Sunday, May 26, 2019

Lema's Generosity---Giving All His Medallions Away

Yes, that's him, Lema, the same Lema Woldegeorgis, the legendary taxi mechanic who, twenty-five years ago, parlayed 50 plus cheap taxi medallions into a multi-million dollar fortune gathered from the sweat and blood of untold numbers of cabbies, to whom we have before us today: an owner no longer needing the bother and is giving his golden goose away.  Why, one might ask, is Lema doing this, what is his motivation for tossing away what once held an combined equity of over 12 million dollars?  How does this make any sense disposing away his taxi monopoly?

The answer is simple.  The medallion "treasure chest" no longer exists, current prices ranging between 3-5 thousand dollars for something worth $250,000 a mere six years ago.  Yes, Uber changed the market but let us collectively remember that the Seattle City Council had initially capped all TNC (ride-share) companies at under 500 operators each.  But as many might also recall, the newly elected Seattle mayor Ed Murray decided that "it couldn't be so," pressuring the Council to reverse itself to completely uncap the TNC market while simultaneously enticing Lema and company with a deal: go along with this and all those leased medallions becoming real property, just like all those million-dollar medallions in NYC, providing a new World packed with renewed and wonderful opportunities.

Personally, I read the taxi tea leaves, and in a presentation to BYG/PSD/Yellow Cab, I said we have to sue the City of Seattle or we are doomed.  And the response to my warning?  David Friend, Lema's financial confidant, walked out of the room, telling me then it was all over,  and now for Lema, it is over,  at least owning a large fleet of worthless and troublesome cabs. it's done, with millions in the bank and monthly income flowing out of Yellow's Puget Sound Dispatch.  Yes, that's correct, Lema's generosity coming with one major precondition: that this free medallion must become a Seattle Yellow cab, thus generating a weekly $180.00 weekly dispatch fee circulating, after PSD overhead, directly into Lema's and David Friend's, along with a few other minor stakeholders, pockets.  

Yes, this is the reality, this is what is occurring in real time.  And also true is the opportunity offered to those who otherwise would not own a cab.  Work hard and you will make a small fortune, living a relatively good life while sending all the kids to college.  It's all true, and Lema should be thanked regardless of motives one way or the other.  Why speak of morality when, business-wise, taxi remains a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog affair.  Celebrate, then, Lema's altruism and let the taxi chips fall where they might---upon heads and hearts and long-suffering cabbies too exhausted to know up from down or who is the clown?   Who are the taxi clowns?  All of us of course.  How could it be any other way?

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Yellow Cabbie Rebellion, Part 2---More Of The Untold Story Of An Unsatisfactory Revolt

There are so many corresponding implications of last week's labor action at Yellow that I barely know where to begin, starting instead with the NY Times 05/19/2019 headline article, "Driven to Despair---How Reckless Loans Devastated A Generation Of Cab Owners" by Brian M. Rosenthal, an extremely thorough examination of how New York City's taxi industry was impacted by unscrupulous banks, credit unions and other financial institutions, their questionable loan actions sanctioned, by of all people, the NYC Taxi Commission.  With 950 mostly immigrant owners losing their investments and medallions, it speaks to how the immigrant cabbie operates in a bubble not fully connected to the new and alien culture he/she finds themselves in, explaining to me what I saw in Seattle as a gross overreaction to Puget Sound Dispatch's request for prepayment for our new dispatch system.

As noted last week, PSD bears responsibility for not adequately, over the past six-eight months, updating all of us over what was occurring or not with the new system.  But it can also be said, that when PSD management did reach out to one group reporting to represent a large percentage of single owners, PSD was either ignored or misunderstood, resulting in what we saw: a misguided work stoppage hurting only the operators and our customer base.  And given that most of our customers were served minus truly serious delay, these 80-100 cabbies proved the opposite, showing they were expendable, for the most part PSD operating efficiently without them, that over capacity is our current reality. Only now is business picking up after our winter doldrums, the worst taxi season I have personally experienced.

Again, I don't fault anyone for being angry, years of abuse and stonewalling taking its toll.  But it is all important to read the situation correctly, and I see a misreading in their response.  Perhaps if I had made it to some of their recent meetings, I could have explained to them what the current situation was, and the where, why and how to what PSD was doing.  Minus real guidance, other than rumored encouragement from the Teamsters, they rashly rushed into action without the support of the remaining 300 or more single owners.  Obviously they should have attempted organizing all of us before going forward, along with alerting local media.  None of this was done.  And picking the same day Uber and Lyft was striking made no logical sense, potentially adversely impacting more customers.  While often irritating, our customers should not be made to suffer for our dysfunction.

Making bad even worse, there are reports calls were made to local school districts stating we would not be picking up students both Thursday and Friday, prompting panicked telephone calls to Yellow/PSD.  That this kind of sabotage is illegal didn't appear to stop some to disrupt operations, along with harassing drivers picking up at the schools.  I wonder if anyone knows the definition of "felony" and how getting one impacts your life?

What all this portends for the immediate future I don't know.  If anything was truly gained, I don't see it but at least single owners can now pay their nearly $700.00 in 3 payments.  And why strike over this when the much bigger issue of adding an additional 150 airport cabs is looming over us, along with the city granting this past week 25 more WAT van licenses.  Does Yellow need another 175 cabs?  Not with our current business.  Now this issue does concern me.  This requires discussion.  Along with a reduction in our weekly dispatch fees.  We need frank and honest conversation, all senseless shouting into the air unhelpful.

And if anyone if interested, in 1973, at age 19, I was fired from my job working in a warehouse when attempting to organize an union, the seamstress' in the shop making $1.00 per hour, meaning I do endorse labor actions.  I once paid the price and glad I did but your actions must be justified.  That is all I request.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Seattle Yellow Cab Single Owner Rebellion & What To Do If Your Uber Or Lyft Driver Is Kidnapping You

Frustration with Yellow/Puget Sound Dispatch boiled over into an impromptu labor action this week, 80 or more single owners turning in their tablets/computers in protest over PSD's mishandling of its new system prepayment request.  As mentioned last week, PSD bungled the process by not communicating adequately over the past few months what was pending, what monetary amount would be requested.  Unfortunately, the walkout put everyone who didn't, including myself, under incredible pressure to serve our accounts, especially our morning and afternoon school runs, with hundreds of children requiring transportation to regional schools.  While intending to send PSD a message, in turn it wasn't wise to punish the innocent who have nothing to do with Yellow's inherent dysfunction.  What occurred both Thursday and Friday was an concerted effort to serve the bells, and for the most part, we were successful, with the majority of the school children arriving to class on time.  Sympathy aside, there has to be a better way to address single owner concerns, and I only hope their actions opened more productive communication channels addressing current and future issues, making everyone's sacrifice meaningful.

One startling, related response was the verbal attack directed at me yesterday when doing "my turn" at the cashier's office, D_____, YC 8 _ _, angrily bombarding me with allegations I had betrayed the drivers by joining with Amin, the PSD general manager in a scheme to somehow skim, embezzle money from MTI, the new system contractor.  Requesting him to stop, saying repeatedly he was insulting me, he kept on until, losing my temper, I turned  around and shouted "Shut up!" sending the message my tolerance quickly fading.  On top of accusing me, Amin and PSD of Federal crimes, he clearly said my motivation was due to being white, implying I am racist.  Amazing, concerning all this nonsense, is that, other than making the initial trip down to Portland to review the system, and writing two system review blog posts, I have had nothing to do with PSD implementation and planning, this particular driver's paranoia spilling over me.

Again, there is long history to this, and with everyone struggling to make money, it puts all of us on edge, with some obviously leaping over the cliff into psychiatric oblivion.  What D______ seemed not to understand is how his performance endangered himself, opening up potential libel suits by me or PSD.  Sad is how we have always been friendly, which is what I said yesterday walking out the door.  But for anyone reading my blog for the very first time, this is what taxi does to people, it makes you crazy, prompting behavior later regrettable.  Such is taxi as I know and hate it, and hate it I do! Screw taxi!

Just Don't Sit There in the Backseat Allowing Yourself to be Victimized

In the various accounts of female passengers attacked by Uber/ Lyft and ersatz Uber/Lyft drivers, all say the victim sat there waiting for the outcome whatever that might be, never detailing the kind of response required when you are being kidnapped.  Instead of waiting, the proper response is to attack---turning off the key, grabbing the steering wheel or poking the rapist in the face and eyes.  With the driver facing forward, it is the victim who holds the advantage, and I advise anyone finding themselves in that awful situation to be instantaneously aggressive, quickly disabling the driver and car.  What you don't do is allow yourself to be killed or raped.  Once it's clear you are under threat, attack, attack and attack again, ending the situation quickly.  Don't be afraid. Act!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

More Thoughts And Info Concerning Yellow's Upcoming Computer System & Dear Dow, Is King County Enabling Gambling Addiction?

I have only one word, or term to describe Yellow/Puget Sound Dispatch and the single owner's collective response to our upcoming dispatch system change: self-defeating.  Like two warring, dysfunctional armies, they stand staring across a deep chasm, wondering what to do.  But to be fair, PSD is pressing forward with plans for fleet system installation mid-June, with a turn-on date of August 12th. While good news, I might be only one who knows it, PSD's recent communication about all this abysmal, two weeks ago asking everyone for initial start up costs minus any real specific information, PSD not realizing the cabbie majority having forgotten about new system negotiations begun last year.  As for the single owners, they remain disconnected from everything other than putting in the many hours plying the taxi road, essential of course but only half of the total taxi equation. Frustrating for me is both my isolated effort to provide necessary information and the obvious fact no one is reading it.  Nothing, and I mean nothing gets the driver's attention.  And when they do wake up to reality, complaint, not accountability their instinctive response. Yes, we stumble along, and I for one, hoping ultimately for a smooth transition come August, prayer perhaps our sole salvation.

Oh Dow! Holy Cow!

Dear KC Executive Dow Constantine,

As constant discussions concerning transportation funds dominate the news, I wonder how King County Metro/1st Transit can justify spending essentially $200.00 for round-trip cab fares 3 times weekly taking a passenger from Seattle's Phinney Ridge to the Snoqualmie Indian Casino near North Bend?  What can be the rationale spending nearly $2400.00 monthly facilitating an addict's gambling habits?  A reliable source tells me this isn't isolated, sometimes 7-8 fares originating upon a given day from Auburn's Muckleshoot Casino to destinations all over greater King County.  Why is all this an appropriate use of limited funds?  I await your response.  Or shall we just place a bet?


Incredulous Cabbie