Taxi Driver Standing Committee
The second DSC Meeting of 2011 was held at The Broadway Cab training room at 6:30 pm, March 23rd.
Organizing for a public demonstration against hotel corruption
Item 1: Discussion was made of bringing pressure to bear on kickback hotels by organizing a series of public demonstrations outside specific hotels. The debate was at times rancorous with the observation made that Radio Cab drivers, including the general manager, spoke in favor of maintaining the status quo and allowing kickbacks to persist at hotels, while Broadway and Sassy’s drivers in attendance spoke against it.
Those favoring the status quo suggested that hotels would not want to come to the table if they had to face accusations of corruption and that they would respond by severing their reliance on taxi services by establishing a fleet of private hotel shuttles or using towncars exclusively. They expressed some sympathy for hotel doormen who are paid only minimal wages.
Those seeking to abolish kickbacks argued that public demonstrations would force the hotels to the table, would elevate the political stakes of the issue, and that, since hotel guests at major downtown hotels expect reliable taxi service, a severance of this service for any length of time would demonstrate that it should not be taken for granted.
The argument was made that kickbacks don’t constitute corruption. This was countered by pointing out that kickbacks have allowed shuttles and towncars to operate in violation of city code resulting in complaints filed by hotel guests. It has also been demonstrated that kickback taxi drivers have been shown to longtrip their customers to make up for kickback fees.
Kevin Hewett pointed out that progressive kickback bidding would further undermine profit margins and drain wealth away from the taxi industry. Some argued that kickbacks are an ethical issue while others said it was not. The drivers’ representative mentioned that there is such a thing as business ethics and he would like to see more of it in our industry.
The drivers’ rep also asked what was wrong with the idea that drivers should simply wait their turn on taxi stands, service their customers, and keep the money they earn without paying off doormen for the privilege of cutting in front of other drivers? Some suggested that this was unrealistic and that the taxi industry did not work that way. It was agreed that increased enforcement against code violating towncars and shuttles would help alleviate some of the losses drivers endure from the kickback scheme.
Item 2: The open forum centered on unpermitted taxis working within Portland city limits. Drivers reported seeing Orange cabs and other operators, some of whom were said to throw magnetic decals and a toplight on their cars and work Old Town and the inner east side on weekend nights. Radio drivers reported that they were compensated for taking short trips in these taxis, collecting receipts for the fare, and following through with formal complaints lodged against these unpermitted cars. Recent enforcement successes in this area were noted along with the need for greater diligence.
A motion was made that drivers have their representative vote against any increase in the number of taxi permits issued by the city. This motion was seconded, debated, and passed unanimously.
Another motion was made that the drivers express their opposition to having the city issue any more vehicle permits of any kind. After agreeing that the representative would not be bound by this resolution, the motion was seconded, debated, and passed.
Meeting adjourned at 8:00 pm.
@2011 Cabdrivers Alliance of Portland, Oregon