Taxi and Muni Drivers Band Together to Plan Public Transit Strike

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Aug. 2 is tentatively walk to work day
Though their City Hall protest last week successfully rustled some feathers (even Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi was riled up), cab drivers are already talking about staging an even bigger strike next month.

This time, they want to join forces with Muni drivers to send a stronger message to their shared boss -- the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. "Both of these groups are being attacked by the SFMTA," said Steve Zeltzer, who encouraged the taxi and Muni drivers to informally meet up in June.

Several of the taxi drivers SF Weekly spoke with said that while it's premature to announce a date, they are considering holding the strike during the SFMTA Board Meeting on Aug. 2.

Tariq Mehmood, the lead organizer of the last taxi protest, said he's waiting to hear SFMTA's interim Chief Debra Johnson's stance on taxi issues before finalizing his plans to protest. Johnson recently took over for Nat Ford, who retired from Muni last week.

However, Zeltzer, a member of United Public Workers for Action, said the bus drivers know exactly what they would be protesting: Proposition G as well as health and safety concerns.

Taxi drivers take issue with the 5 percent credit card processing fee they have to shell out each time a passenger pays by card. They are also against the SFMTA's proposals to add an electronic waybill system and rear seat payment terminals to every car.

The electronic waybill system would collect travel and fare data to better regulate the industry. For example, it would help inform which places are the most popular pick-up spots. But taxi drivers question the system's accuracy and fear that their personal information could be hacked.

The rear seat payment terminals, known elsewhere in the country as Taxi TVS, would bring in advertising revenue, but are already considered one of the most grating features of New York taxis.

At the SFMTA meeting on June 21, the board removed taxi items from the agenda to make way for an environmental review. Taxi drivers in attendance grew suspicious that the agenda item was removed to punish them for the strike.

Despite the fact that the board is prepping to debate those issues, the drivers said they don't think there will be a repeat of last time, where the strike interfered  with the city's Summer Learning Day outside on the steps of City Hall.

But the fact that the Giants are playing the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 2, however, has not escaped their attention.

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They can all go to hell as far as I'm concerned. San Franciscans have no interest in screwing over hard working cab drivers and bus drivers, both of which have benefited for decades from some of the most worker-friendly rules in the country for their industries. There's plenty of room for legitimate debate on the issues, but walking off the job and stranding thousands of us will destroy the last shred of credibility and dignity these guys have left.

SFMTA should call the drivers' bluff and host an informational job fair to recruit prospective drivers. Let's see how many people are interested right now in a $63K starting salary (with the ability to earn substantially more with overtime and seniority), full health insurance and retirement benefits, the ability to go AWOL with minimal consequences, union representation, a worker-friendly disciplinary procedure that provides enormous job security, and free parking for your own car while you work. Need I remind you that the latest jobs numbers just came out, and they are as dismal as ever?


Goof thing that muni simulation game came out in Germany a few weeks ago. Gimmie a few hours and a faster computer and I'll TOTALLY be able to drive anything!Don't worry guys--I got this!

Dean Clark
Dean Clark

I like this article Brad Wrote:

WHY THE TAXI  TURMOIL? – Fri,May 20, 2011



DURING THE PAST THREE DECADES San Francisco was home to the most driver-friendlytaxicab legislation on the planet. A groundbreaking 1978 law stipulated thatthe city’s taxicab “medallions” (the permits that allow the holder to put onecab on the streets) would no longer be held by taxicab companies but by veterancab drivers.


The cab company ownersloathed the new arrangement, and between 1978 and 2007 they crafted eightseparate ballot measures intended to restore their supremacy. Eight times thecity’s enlightened voters said, “No -- we like our cabdrivers. The law stays.”

                                                             - - -


BUT IN 2007,a group of City Hall and taxicab industry insiders pulled off a fast one. Theprincipals have never admitted their roles, but here’s how the deal went down:


2007 was an “off-year”election (no contests for President, Governor, Senator, or Representative, nocontroversial ballot measures) and it was understood that voter turnout wouldbe feather-light. Deep within the fine-print legalese of a mind-numbing,ten-page ballot proposal (“Transit Reform, Parking Regulation and EmissionsReductions”) the insiders hid a bomb -- three devastating sentences that would abolishthe San Francisco Taxicab Commission and place the cab industry under thecontrol of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Most cunningly,the bill specified that all previous taxicab legislation would be nullified,and henceforth any decree from the SFMTA would automatically be law in thetaxicab industry. The measure squeaked through with the “yes” votes of a mere15% of the electorate, who had no idea they’d just sabotaged the City’s 7,000cab drivers.

                                                                   - - -


THE SAN FRANCISCO MUNICIPAL TRANSPORTATION AGENCY is a sprawl-ing octopus of more than 5,000 salariedemployees. Its flagship enterprise is Muni, the perennially beleaguered bus andsubway system whose brink-of-bankruptcy woes often scream from the headlines.The SFMTA’s director is paid $308,837 per year. The average Muni bus driverearns $82,000. In addition to paychecks, all SFMTA workers receive sick leave,paid vacations, and comprehensive health and retirement packages. (Cab driversreceive zero benefits. A typical driver earns approx $30,000/year. Medallionholders can earn an additional $25,000 or so by renting out their cabs andmedallions.)


The SFMTA just about wet itspants when the taxicab industry was delivered, bound-and- gagged, onto itsdoorstep. One SFMTA director publicly proposed confiscating all 1,500medallions (no matter that medallion holders have invested their lives into thecab industry) for sale to the highest bidder. A veteran city attorney wasassigned to conduct “taxicab industry town hall meetings” at which she wasstraight-up with those of us who attended: her job, she told us, was to figureout how to extract mega-millions from the taxicab industry -- ASAP! We cab drivers were invited tooffer suggestions on how the extraction mechanisms might be most efficientlystructured, but the eventual outcome was non-negotiable. Don’t like it? Well, tough! Elections have consequences…

                                                                     - - -


BY MID-2010all of the various tubes and spigots of the gleaming new money pipeline wereoperational. By May 2011 the SFMTA reported that, so far, $10 million hadflowed from the low-paid,benefit-less, health care-less workers in the taxicab industry into the compensation packages of theSFMTA. The cab driver body watched all this unfold and finally began to ask, Can this really be happening right here inGod’s Favorite City? And: Are we not human, too?


The confusing reports you’veheard (5% credit card fees? Backseat advertising terminals? Honking cabssurrounding City Hall?) make no sense without knowing that these are theinevitable results of the 2007 coup engineered by the City Hall “in-crowd,” acoup brilliantly designed to transfer an actualfortune from some of San Francisco’s least-compensated workers to some of itsbest-compensated. The news media have all but ignored this story, but we cabdrivers can no longer afford to.

                                                                         * * *


The five-percent credit card fees?  The cab companies recently complained abouthaving to pay 2-3% fees to credit card companies. The SFMTA said, “Ah, hell --that’s chump change. Take 5% from the drivers, and keep the difference? Happynow?”


Backseat advertising terminals?  Advertisers and terminal vendors will paythe SFMTA a pile to wedge these noisy machines into our workplaces--your ridingand psychic space.


Fare increase?  Hearing our howls, the SFMTA is tossing a diversionary scrap our way.


A cab strike?  It’s reallyhard for most cab drivers to see much of a choice here…



Quote of the week -- A 25-year veteran driver, discussing the Arab Spring: “For 40 or 50 years, the people under thesedictators have been afraid to say anything. In Palestine we have a saying: ‘Theonly time I open my mouth is when I go to the dentist.’ But now we are speakingup. People say, ‘I have this shitty life. The politicians have mansions, greattrips, luxury cars, foreign bank accounts… And now I’m going to open my mouth.Maybe I will still have this shitty life, but even if I die I’m going to openmy mouth.’ This is what we are saying now…”


                    Brad Newsham, Green Cab#914, cab driver since 1985 --

Able Dart
Able Dart

Oh God. Other than the medallion holders who are all crooks, the taxi drivers do have some legitimate beefs. Allying themselves with one of the most entitled classes in the City is quite possibly the worst idea they could come up with.


Protesting against a Prop G. makes no sense.  If they want to win people over, protesting against the will of the people isn't the way to go about it.


Go strike you wusses.  You have no guts.  If you do, the public will hate you even more and we'll pass more city propositions to kick your ass, not to the curb, but into the gutter.


Wow. the two groups with no public sympathy "striking?" We'll see how that goes. Hope the city fires anyone engaged in illegal strikes. Cab service sucks and so does Muni!

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