Photo by Steve Shay
Taxi cab operators met with Teamsters Local Union 117 June 24 in Tukwila to discuss associating with them. Cab drivers have complained, particularly at Sea Tac Airport, that unreasonable fees are exacted on them by multiple agencies. Pictured are some taxi cab operators gathering at the April 28 rally and march near the airport, joining a host of airline employees who also complained about low-waged jobs and bad conditions.

UPDATE: Taxi drivers meet with Teamsters Local 117; seek fairer treatment

Will form "Western Washington Taxicab Operatiors Association"

Hundreds of taxi cab operators who work Seattle and King County met Sunday, June 24, to begin forming an association with Tukwila-based Teamsters Local Union 117. It will be called Western Washington Taxicab Operatiors Association.
Because taxi drivers are legally classified as independent contractors, and not employees of the cab companies, they cannot actually form a union. Through this association they hope to influence policies they want changed.

The Highline Times reported on the April 28 march on International Blvd. in Sea Tac by airport workers, including taxi drivers, disgruntled with claims of low wages, poor treatment from management, and, in the case of cab drivers, excessive fees.

Leonard A. Smith is Organizing Director, Teamsters Local 117, and is helping to form this association. He spoke to the Highline Times today about why he and the taxi operators believe this association is a critical move.

"They voted to pay $25 Monthly dues to belong to the Western Washington Taxicab Operatiors Association. This association covers Yellow, both at the airport and in general, Farwest and Orange, with 2,000 cab operators. Stita hasn't shown interest yet. If they do they are welcome.

"They will become engaged in political lobbying, community organizing, advocacy, to go ahead and start getting these regulatory bodies to enforce the rules as they stand, to exercise power to get control of the industry so that these drivers can maybe make a living out of it. Right now, the drivers work six or seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, have no health insurance, sick leave, or vacation pay. They average $10 an hour.

"Their gripes are on multiple fronts including their fees, the cost of L&I (Labor and Industries) insurance, their treatment at the regulatory bodies, including the Port of Seattle, the City of Seattle and King County. They are required by the Port of Seattle to operate a certain kind of (efficient) car like a Hybrid.

"There is also the issue with 'flat rate for hire' cars which look like taxis, and people think they are taxis. but are not metered. Sometimes people get into these cars and are told one amount and are then told to pay a (higher) amount when they arrive at their destination. They are not supposed to cruise, or get in hotel lines, but routinely do that. Metered taxis have rates set by city and county agreements, so they are placed at competitive disadvantage.

"The City, County and Port treat them as if they are employees. Their day to day existence is as if they are employees. They have all the bad parts of being an employee with none of the benefits or protections of being an employee. And since it's us as a society through our government doing this, we have a responsibility to fix it.

"Pretty much this is the way the whole thing devolved in the late '60's and early '70's when the industry said, 'Wow. We can make them all independent contractors. That way we can make more money and we won't have the responsibility anymore.' Then they convinced all the drivers at the time saying, 'This is a way for you to make more money'.

"And my advise to workers always is when an employer comes to you and says, 'We're going to change our relationship with you because you can make more money,' start running."

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