Port of Portland Comments Regarding Recommendation to Add Additional Taxis
At the October 10th Transportation Board meeting, alternate board member April Murchison read a report submitted by the Port of Portland opposing the city's proposals for new taxi permits. The report cited flaws in the Permit Recommendations report and mentioned "several discrepancies in the logic" of the arguments it made. The report also stated that the airport did not need more taxis and taxi stands in downtown are frequently full. Drivers greeted Murchison with an enthusiastic round of applause after she read the report aloud. The full text of this report, prepared by the Port of Portland ground transportation office can be read here.
November 2, 2012
Cabdrivers Rally at City Hall
Have you ever felt like rounding up a few dozen of your buddies, surrounding city hall with your cars, and wailing on the horns like mad? Me too. Well that’s what Portland cabdrivers did today. And damn, that was fun!
When drivers first gathered at the OMSI parking lot to prepare, it seemed like the odds were against us. The weather was rainy with strong gusts of wind. A number of our more dedicated drivers were called away. And fifteen minutes before we were set to meet, PDX opened up the backfield to both colored stickers.
But the more determined drivers among us showed up and got prepared. Drivers wrote signs reading “No New Permits” “Don’t Hurt Cabdrivers” and “Don’t Do It, Sam”. And drivers spoke with reporters from at least four different newspapers and TV stations. KGW Newschannel 8 would later run a brief article and video sequence on their website about the event.
From OMSI our convoy rolled across the Hawthorne Bridge and circled city hall. At various times throughout the rally drivers converged on the building from all sides. The acoustic resonance outside Mayor Adams’ office on Madison Street was superb as twenty taxis stopped to wail on their horns at once. The mayor may not listen to us on most days. But today he had no choice.
With our central target selected, flexibility was key in reshaping our route to access city hall while avoiding police obstacles. Police issued a number of verbal warnings, and eventually we scaled back the horn honking in favor of a slow rolling protest. In the end no tickets were actually given, our statement was made, and we moved on.
Congratulations to all participating drivers!
November 1, 2012
Drivers Meet With Mayor Adams
The taxi drivers’ representative and two other cabdrivers met with Mayor Sam Adams yesterday to discuss the mayor’s proposals to unleash 132 new taxis on the streets of Portland. Kathleen Butler and Frank Dufay from the Revenue Bureau also attended the meeting along with bureau director Tom Lannom.
Drivers’ representative Red Diamond presented the mayor with a petition signed by over 300 Portland cabdrivers asking the mayor to not issue new permits to any taxi company at this time. The mayor politely received the petition but argued adamantly in favor of new taxis throughout the meeting.
Diamond indicated the inconsistencies in the staff reports from the Revenue Bureau, citing specific references to flaws in the data collection and the failed logic of the economic assumptions. The mayor was informed that both the permit recommendations and industry reform proposals would cause significant economic harm to Portland’s cabdriving community. Speaking on behalf of the vast majority of all Portland cabdrivers, Diamond made it clear that the cabdrivers formally rejected the mayor’s proposals.
Nik B., a Portland Taxi driver and Angel Olvera, owner of Sassy’s Cab #1499 also spoke to mayor Adams, expressing their concerns that taxi stands were already now full and that the airport was satisfied with the number of permitted taxis available there.
All three drivers confirmed to the mayor that the best permitting system was one in which the city allowed drivers to control the permits themselves. If drivers controlled the permits, competition between companies for permitted drivers would bring kitty rates down and could eventually bring enough prosperity to drivers to allow for a fleet expansion. The argument against a driver-controlled permitting system was made by Kathleen Butler and echoed by Mayor Adams.
(Ironically, the meeting between the mayor and these drivers took place on the one-year anniversary of the funeral of Mikhail Prodan for whom the Prodan Legacy Permit was named.)
Ultimately Mayor Adams was unswayed by the drivers’ arguments, though this was to be expected. What wasn’t expected was the abrasive manner with which the mayor dismissed the drivers’ concerns about their own economic stability. Thankfully, Mr. Adams will be leaving office in just a few short months.
October 31, 2012
Medford Cabbie Shot Dead
A Talent, Oregon cabdriver was shot and killed during a robbery this past weekend in Medford. The Medford Mail Tribune reports that 58-year old William Roy Huson was reported missing late Saturday night after picking up a passenger at a local nightclub. His body was found the next day with a single gunshot wound to the head.
Though police have received 80 tips from people who may have seen a passenger enter Huson’s cab, they have no solid leads at this time and no arrests have been made.
The full text of the Mail Tribune’s article on this event can be read here. A follow-up article ran the following day.
Huson’s death reminds us that taxi driving is recognized as the single most dangerous job in America for on-the-job homicides and assaults. Though Portland taxicabs have enhanced security features that our colleagues in Medford may not, caution and common sense are still our most prudent defenses against crime.
October 24, 2012
Transportation Board Approves City Recommendations
In a move that may send Portland cabdrivers to the food stamp rolls, the Private For-Hire Transportation Board of Review voted to approve city staff recommendations for an additional 132 new taxis. Though several members of the Board abstained from voting, a clear majority voted to expand Portland’s taxi fleet by a whopping 35%.
A motion was first made by the drivers’ representative to deny new permits to Union Cab, an upstart company formed by disgruntled drivers with backing from the AFL-CIO. This vote failed to pass. A second vote then secured 50 permits for Union Cab. A later vote approved 32 new permits for Green Cab, 12 for Portland Taxi, and 38 for Radio Cab.
The Board’s meeting on October 10th was held at the Portland Building auditorium to accommodate the approximately 150 people in attendance. A scheduled one-hour public comment period stretched into 100 minutes of public testimony which at times turned raucous and emotional.
Board member testimony was highlighted by Port of Portland representative April Murchinson whose prepared written testimony recounted past problems the Port had with excess taxis in the backfield. Though Murchinson was only sitting in for Port’s regular representative and could not vote, her testimony was greeting by a boisterous round of applause by many cabdrivers.
The approval of 132 new taxi permit applications represents a worst case scenario for Portland’s taxi drivers who stand to lose one-third of their already scant business to new competitors. As if the approval of all 132 new permits wasn’t bad enough, the Board momentarily considered approving a few additional permits for New Rose City Taxi. This motion failed to pass.
The final step in approval of new taxis will likely occur on November 7th when the Portland City Council convenes to review taxi reform proposals and permit applications.
October 12, 2012
Drivers Protest in Downtown Portland
Cabdrivers staged a protest rally in downtown Portland yesterday to express their opposition to corrupt hotels and the arrogant neglect they endure from Mayor Sam Adams
About 40 taxis assembled at the OMSI parking lot early Wednesday morning to draw protest signs, meet with members of the press, and coordinate their strategy before rallying into downtown. The taxis converged on SW Pine Street in front of the Embassy Suites Hotel. Some drivers parked their vehicles at the curb or in the streets. Others circled the block again and again displaying signs reading “END HOTEL CORRUPTION” “END THE KICKBACKS” “DO NOT CHEAT CABDRIVERS” and “NO NEW TAXI PERMITS”.
The event drew substantial media attention from the Associated Press, The Oregonian, The Portland Mercury, KOIN-6 Television, KATU TV, KXL Radio, and others. KATU’s television coverage was especially comprehensive.
Steve Jung, general manager of the Embassy Suites, nervously stepped into the spotlight to deny allegations that his doormen solicit kickbacks from drivers. He claimed to have a policy against the practice but had never confronted any problems about it. Jon, one of the more notorious of the Embassy Suites doormen, was chased by television reporters but refused to comment.
After an extensive conversation with Jung, drivers’ representative Red Diamond remained unconvinced that the general manager had learned his lesson about cheating cabdrivers. If drivers continue to be cheated there, they may have to pay a return visit.
As a result of this event, drivers walked away with a renewed sense of unity and strength. Their messages reached a wide popular audience. Policy makers were put on alert that their policies were failing to serve the public interest. The hotels were brought into the spotlight. And Mayor Adams was put on the defensive about the shortcomings of his shortsighted policies.
Congratulations to all participating drivers on the success of this public demonstration of driver empowerment.
October 4, 2012
Drivers Mobilize for Public Protests
In the wake of last Wednesday’s announcement that the Revenue Bureau intends to put 132 new taxis on the street, Portland taxi drivers have begun mobilizing for a series of public demonstrations in the downtown area. Drivers are outraged at the prospects of sacrificing 35% of their present market share to new arrivals and are furious at their lack of inclusion during the formation of these new proposals.
Protests will target corrupt hotels that solicit kickbacks from drivers. But these mobile demonstrations will send the message to all involved parties that drivers can no longer accept the neglect of their needs by public policy makers.
The exact time and location of these protests have not yet been announced, but may come as early as Wednesday of this week.
September 30, 2012.
Revenue Bureau Recommends 132 New Taxis and Taxi Industry Reform
In an astonishing move that rocked the taxi community, Revenue Bureau staff announced their recommendations to approve 132 new taxi permit applications. If all 132 applications gain final approval, Portland’s taxi fleet would soon swell by 35%.
Cabdrivers are expressing their outrage that these decisions were made behind closed doors with no more than token contributions to the policy making process. Though public forums were held in February, the Revenue Bureau was entirely secretive as they made their decisions on new permits and taxi industry reforms. Drivers, company managers, and the PFH Transportation Board knew nothing of the recommendations’ content until their bombshell unveiling at the Sept. 26th Board meeting.
The Bureau has endorsed 32 new permits for Green Cab, 12 for Portland Taxi, 38 for Radio Cab, and 50 taxi permits for Union Cab, a prospective company owned by drivers. The permits are to be phased in over a three year period with 78 issued the first year, 28 the second, and 26 in the third.
Concurrent with its permit recommendations, the Bureau also issued a report on proposed reforms to the taxi industry. Drivers are now evaluating these proposals to assess their relative merits. Some, such as personal injury protection insurance, sound encouraging though it may be years before they’re finally implemented. Others, such as hiring new program staff to monitor taxi call phones sound utterly bizarre.
The bottom line for cabdrivers is that a 35% increase in competition will logically correspond to a 35% decrease in revenue to drivers. When asked how cabdrivers are supposed to absorb a 35% loss in market share, program director Kathleen Butler shrugged and suggested that taxi companies might lower their kitties and more people might call for cabs. She gave no explanation as to why these benefits might occur, whether they would fully absorb a 35% loss of income, how long it might take them to work, or what economic calculus might be used to justify them.
September 27, 2012
Jefferson Smith to Meet with Cabdrivers
Mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith has scheduled an appearance at the PDX Airport backfield to speak with taxi drivers about their political issues. Smith is a Democrat and serves in the Oregon State House as the representative from District 47 in East Portland. He is running for mayor against former city council member Charlie Hales.
Smith's campaign staff has related that the candidate already has some familiarity with taxi issues but is eager to learn more by meeting with drivers and listening to their concerns. He is scheduled to appear at the airport backfield on Tuesday, September 4th from 10:00 to 11:00 AM. This event is free and open to the public and presents a rare opportunity for cabdrivers to connect with someone who may come to represent them at city hall. Drivers are encouraged to bring their wives, husbands, and children to this event though parking may be limited for non-commercial vehicles.
What does Jefferson Smith have to say about taxi permits, new taxis, towncars, and hotel kickbacks? And can he help us build a new facility at PDX with clean toilets and a heated, indoors environment? Find out on September 4th by speaking directly to the man who may be Portland's next mayor!
August 16, 2012.
New Law Criminalizes Non-Permitted Taxis
On Wednesday, July 11th, the Portland City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance that will criminalize the operation of non-permitted taxis in the city of Portland. Drivers caught picking up passengers without a city taxiplate can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. Their vehicles can be impounded on the spot.
The new law is designed to uphold public safety by protecting the riding public from rogue drivers who have not passed criminal background screening, drug testing, or driving record checks, and who may not carry commercial liability insurance. The law will also protect legal drivers from the economic loss caused by so-called “pirate” taxis.
The drivers’ representative first proposed an early version of this ordinance to the Revenue Bureau in December 2010. The new law will take full effect on August 10th – 30 days after approval by council.
Two other ordinances related to the for-hire transportation industry were also passed by council during the same session. One reduces the retirement age of wheelchair vans from 15 years to 10 years. The other allows out-of-area medical transportation providers to service round trips through Portland.
The city council heard public testimony on these ordinances two weeks prior to voting on them. Among those who testified in favor of passage were Red Diamond, taxi drivers’ representative; Raye Miles, Broadway Cab president; Kathleen Butler, Revenue Bureau administrator, and Darin Campbell, Radio Cab board member. An article in the Oregonian about the new law can be read here.
July 12, 2012
NPR Reports on Towncar Lawsuit
Nation Public Radio aired a report on a lawsuit filed by two towncar companies against the city of Portland. The towncar operators claim it is "unconstitutional" for Portland to regulate its transportation program in ways they don't like and filed a case in federal court to contest pricing regulations. The two companies in the suit seek to charge the same rates as taxis. If they could, these companies would siphon off the best taxi business while not servicing short trips in local communities. The report, filed by freelance journalist Deena Prichep, features interviews with drivers' representative Red Diamond and Broadway Cab driver David Aguilar. Read or listen to it here.
June 19, 2012
If you haven't read this....
you ought to. This brief Yahoo story is titled "How electronic payment services are earning cabbies an extra $144 million in tips every year." Think about it.
Orange Cab Squeezed
Over the past few months, Orange Cab has received a number of complaints against them for servicing fares inside Portland. As of this writing, they’ve been fined a total of $33,000 payable to the city Revenue Bureau by May 21st. This isn’t the first time Orange has been caught straying where they don’t belong. Hopefully the hefty fines and the promise of future vehicle impoundments will rein in their illicit theft of Portland taxi services.
May 8, 2012
Town Cars Sue for the “Right” to Steal Cab Fares
A Virginia-based libertarian group has filed a lawsuit in federal court to promote the “rights” of towncar and limousine companies to steal taxi fares. Towncars are seeking to charge taxi rates while not providing any of the economically marginal taxi services the community depends on.
Apparently, the expectation is that towncars should operate as taxis when it means securing lucrative airport runs, but not act as taxis when it comes to providing medical transportation for seniors, grocery runs, wheelchair lifts, emergency roadside response, or 24-hour, citywide access. If they prevail, towncar companies would be legally allowed to gut Portland’s taxi industry and deprive the community of reliable taxi service so they can profit.
This matter was reported in the Oregonian and on KOPB radio. Read the Oregonian article here.
April 26, 2012
Two Recent Articles
In recent weeks, two articles appeared in online journals about Portland’s taxi industry. The Portland Business Journal covered the new proposals to criminalize the operation of unlicensed taxis. Andy Giegerich’s article was accurate and succinct and gave the matter some perspective by referencing the labor market study released by the city of Portland this January.
In contrast, The Huffington Post published an article riddled with inaccuracies that failed to convey any meaningful sense of the subject. The story by Jessica Greene ran with the headline, “Portland Livery Car Companies: Portland Taxi Laws Crippling, Don’t Protect Customers.”
By any reasoned measure, Greene’s article was amateurish and rife with errors. Frank Dufay’s name was repeatedly spelled wrong for example. And Greene identified the taxi drivers’ representative as “the taxi representative to Portland’s City Council.” She should have noted that taxis don’t have representatives; they’re cars. Red Diamond is the drivers’ representative and doesn’t report to the city council; he sits on the Private For-Hire Transportation Board of Review – a citizens’ advisory committee.
It’s also unclear why Ms. Greene, who apparently lives in Tennessee and wrote her article based on phone interviews, would rely on an economist in Florida to explain the shortcomings of transportation services in Portland. “All Portlanders lose out as a result (of city regulations),” he said.
It would seem Ms. Greene wasn’t listening when the drivers’ rep told her about grocery runs, wheelchair lifts, 24-hour, citywide service, medical transportation, emergency roadside services, and keeping drunks off the road – all of which are essential functions of the taxi industry that towncars don’t provide. People who rely on these types of services benefit from regulations that protect them from the shortcomings of other transportation providers who only service big money.
Greene even managed to incorporate this pearl in her second paragraph. “A Portland city official told The Huffington Post that the only real purpose of the regulations is to target small and independent businesses, while protecting the city’s taxi monopolies.”
Clearly, the author doesn’t get it. She took cheap, journalistic shortcuts to slant her story towards a cliché of intrusive bureaucracies and corrupt public offices – a juvenile outlook from a news journal that forfeited its credibility years ago.
April 9, 2012
In little more than a month the transportation board has held six special workshops and two full board meetings. Attendance at these meetings was exceptional with some drawing upwards of 150 cabdrivers. Written proposals were submitted and scores of participants rose to speak. At stake was nothing less than the future of the taxi industry in Portland.
So what happens now after all the testimony and debate? We wait. The next board meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 30th. At that time it is likely that transportation administrators will deliver a proposal for the board to consider. What that proposal will look like is anybody’s guess.
Most people think that selling medallions to drivers won’t be an option. Though medallions remain popular with many drivers for their perceived ability to built equity as a retirement fund, the concept is fraught with complications and city administrators haven’t expressed much enthusiasm for it.
Issuing permits directly to drivers holds up well as a workable solution. But the decision to radically alter the present system may stir some strong political winds. And this may lead to some sort of compromised partial solution with some permits issued to drivers and some kept by the companies. The merits of a compromised offering remain to be seen. But drivers should be cautious against sacrificing the opportunity for meaningful reform for the sake of political convenience.
Other industry reforms are already in the works. City commissioners will likely approve the anti-kickback ordinance within the next few months, and plans are afoot to hire a fulltime street-level transportation officer who can issue citations to illegal towncars and shuttles.
City attorneys have also solved the matter of how to keep illegal Beaverton-based taxis from scooping fares in Portland. Soon enough, illegal taxi service will be a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and the immediate impoundment of the illegal vehicle. The drivers’ representative will gladly offer $10 to the first person who can present a digital photo of an illegal taxi being hauled away on the back of a tow truck. So stay tuned, and be sure to attend the next drivers’ meeting.
April 2, 2012
Higher Fines for Code Violations
In an effort to improve both the quality and the profitability of transportation services, city officials have proposed dramatic increases in punishments for code violations. These increased fines apply to drivers of all taxis, towncars, limousines, shuttles, and pedicabs.
In some cases, fines have doubled. In other cases they have increased tenfold. Though this may seem steep, increased fines will reward law-abiding drivers by punishing code violators. Drivers who pay off hotel doormen and then overcharge their passengers stand to be run out of business if they don’t comply.
And Beaverton-based illegal taxis will now be charged with a criminal misdemeanor if they pick up fares in Portland. This means they can face up to six months in jail if prosecuted. Even without prosecution their cars can be impounded on the spot.
The new fines represent a revision of city code and will likely be approved by the city commissioners based on the recommendation of city staff. Expect them to take effect by early summer. Though it was not necessary for the transportation board to approve these changes, the board voted at its March 28th meeting to express support for them.
March 30, 2012
New Meetings Scheduled
Following the release of the Taxi Driver Labor Market Study, the Revenue Bureau has dramatically increased the number of public meetings scheduled on taxi-related issues. Ordinarily, the Transportation Board meets six times per year. But six additional meetings have been scheduled during February-March to address driver concerns. Dates and topics to be discussed include:
Wed. Feb.29,2012. 2:30PM-4:30PM
Health insurance and other driver benefits
Tue. March 6,2012, 7:00PM-9:00PM
Issuing taxi permits directly to drivers
Thu. March 8,2012. 10:00AM – 12:00PM
Capping the kitty or other limits on payments required from drivers
Mon. March 12,2012
1:30PM – 3:30PM
Comparing methods and standards for issuing new taxi permits
Wed. March 14,2012
Taxi company performance standards
Thu.March 22, 2012
2:30pm – 4:30pm
Wed. March 28,2012
Regular Private for-Hire Transportation Board Meeting
Starting times for these events will vary. Please check here for a complete schedule of topics and times. All meetings are held at the Revenue Bureau offices at 111 SW Columbia St. in the 8th floor conference room and are open to the public. Drivers are strongly encouraged to attend.
February 25, 2012
Comments from the Drivers’ Rep on the Labor Market Study
The following commentary was submitted to the Revenue Bureau by the taxi drivers’ representative in response to the release of the Labor Market Review:
Mayor Adams and Revenue Bureau staff are to be commended for exposing the shameful work conditions faced by Portland cabdrivers. The Labor Market Review shows with great detail and consistency how drivers routinely work long hours, earn dismal wages and no benefits, and lack any meaningful ability to improve their working lives.
There are genuine solutions to these problems.
The most obvious and compelling reform action is for the city to adopt a driver-controlled permitting system. Issuing 382 permits to five taxi companies has allowed these companies disproportionate control over contractual relations with drivers. In this monopolized and non-competitive environment, taxi companies effectively operate as landlords, charging drivers exorbitant fees to utilize city-owned permits.
Exchanging a company-controlled permitting model for a driver-controlled one will force taxi companies to compete for access to permits, much as any other business must compete in the marketplace for their customers. This competition will enhance the value of the driver to the company, resulting in reduced kitties and improved working conditions.
A detailed summary of the advantages of adopting a driver-controlled permitting system has been submitted as a proposal to Revenue Bureau staff from the taxi drivers’ representative. This document, known as The Prodan Legacy Permit Proposal, can be accessed under the “special reports” heading at www.cabdriversalliance.com.
Several other important measures should be taken to bolster working conditions among Portland cabdrivers. First, the city should pass the anti-kickback ordinance. The Private For-Hire Transportation Board of Review has already approved this measure. This ordinance, if properly enforced, will restore hundreds of thousands of dollars annually pilfered from the taxi industry by illegal operators.
With the anti-kickback ordinance in place, meaningful enforcement of city transportation code must be provided on a consistent basis. This can only be achieved by hiring a fulltime field enforcement officer. Taxi services occur at street level and the city codes governing them cannot adequately be enforced by desk-bound staff. Only an assigned field officer can properly check logbooks, cite non-permitted vehicles, and determine the legality of for-hire transportation services.
Finally, the assigned field officer MUST have the ability to perform quality control surveys at PDX Airport. QC surveys needn’t take more than 60 seconds and can be conducted with no inconvenience to travelers by asking a few brief questions about services rendered. City administrators cannot possibly hope to ascertain the truth about the workings of the private for-hire transportation sector without documenting first-hand experiences from genuine travelers.
Together, these four key reforms (driver-controlled permitting, passage of the anti-kickback ordinance, hiring a fulltime field officer, and QC surveys) are certain to improve the delivery of transportation services in Portland and bolster the economic viability of its cabdrivers. Mayor Adams, the city commissioners, and Revenue Bureau staff are strongly encouraged to examine these proposed reforms with an eye towards their implementation in the months ahead. I will be happy to make myself available to all involved parties for further consultation on these and related matters.
Portland Taxi Drivers’ Representative
February 18, 2011
The Prodan Legacy Permit – A Proposal for a Driver-Controlled Permitting System
With the recent release of the Revenue Bureau’s study on labor conditions in Portland’s taxi industry, it is likely that taxi regulators will be looking for solutions to the problems this study exposed. Many drivers are hoping this will lead to consideration of a switch to a driver-controlled permitting system.
The drivers’ representative will be presenting a proposal to city staff this month outlining a working model for how Portland could adopt a driver-controlled permitting system. This proposal is not for a medallion system in which permits would be sold to drivers. Instead, drivers would gain the opportunity to have city-owned permits assigned to them on a permanent basis. We have named this the Prodan Legacy Permit in memory of Mikhail Prodan, a Portland Taxi driver who died suddenly last year.
All drivers are encouraged to read the text of this proposal and submit any comments they care to share with the drivers’ representative and/or with Revenue Bureau staff. To view this document, click the “Special Reports” link on the left of this screen.
February 4. 2012
The Revenue Bureau has finally released its long-awaited study of working conditions among Portland taxi drivers. The so-called “90-day study” commissioned by Mayor Sam Adams took a full year to complete. It reveals a startling array of adverse conditions faced by drivers including 80-hour work weeks with an average hourly income of just $6.22 per hour.
The study was made public on January 25th at the Transportation Board’s first meeting of the new year. Other findings include an average weekly kitty (driver’s lease) of $500 per week at non-driver-owned taxi companies compared to a reported high of just $245 per week at Portland’s only driver-owned company, Radio Cab. The report also stated that, “long hours and low wages for taxi drivers are associated with poor customer service, unsafe driving, increased accidents, negative impacts to driver health and family life, as well as increased costs to the community.”
The 27-page report drew upon interviews with hundreds of Portland taxi drivers from all taxi companies including owner-drivers and lease drivers. It also evaluated tax returns by drivers, conducted interviews with company owners, and reviewed similar studies from other American and Canadian cities. Among its conclusions are that measures should be taken to reduce kitty payments by lease drivers at non-driver-owned companies, and that the permitting process should be reevaluated.
The full report can be viewed here "Preliminary Findings Taxi Driver Labor Market Study: Long Hours, Low Wages January 2012".
All drivers are encouraged to read this document and then submit comments to the city regarding their experiences. This is a great opportunity to let your opinions be heard on the conditions you face as a working Portland cabdriver. Visit this link "Taxi Report Comment Form" to have your comments included in the official comments registry. Comments must be submitted to the Revenue Bureau by February 27th, 2012.
January 28, 2012
Radio Cab Crashes Into Hotel Room
Tragedy struck the Jupiter Hotel in the form of a Radio Cab that sped out of control and crashed into an occupied room. A man sleeping there suffered serious injuries as the taxi fell upon his bed.
Rescue personnel and hotel staff had to lift Radio Cab #136 off the man and back it out of room 115 before transporting the 40-year old hotel guest to OHSU Hospital. The guest, identified as Jon Toubin, a disk jockey from New York, was being treated for life-threatening injuries at the intensive care unit.
Radio Cab #136 was a 2008 Scion xB and was driven by a 52-year old lease driver named Terry Uding. The car first tore through a cluster of bamboo before blasting through the hotel room’s exterior wall. Uding is said to be a relatively new driver at Radio and was evaluated at the scene for low blood sugar. She also received medical treatment at an area hospital but was not seriously injured.
The exact circumstances leading to the crash remain unknown though speculation about a road rage incident centered on the fact that the driver sped away after having just been waved off without a customer. Uding herself suggested she’d had a seizure. Though the crash was covered extensively by local news media, none mentioned any pre-existing medical conditions that might have contributed to Uding losing control of her vehicle.
December 10, 2011
Broadway Dispatch Passes Audit
So much happens in cabdriving that you’re never really sure about. You might look up at your computer screen and see a trip holding in a nearby zone. Perhaps it’s in your zone. But it doesn’t get dispatched to you. What happened? Was it a trip you weren’t qualified for such as a medical transport or a wheelchair lift? Was the order suddenly canceled or corrected to another zone? Or is your dispatch system corrupted with dispatchers who sell fares to their favorite drivers?
Sometimes – especially when business is abysmally slow – it’s easy to speculate that the system is corrupt. After all, the hotels are notoriously corrupt. And corrupt dispatchers have been caught in the past. Could such a thing still be happening today?
A recent audit of Broadway dispatch records showed no apparent corruption in the system. Multiple trips, drivers, and uncertain circumstances were examined in the computerized database where all Broadway trips are logged. And the system came through clean. Suspicious drivers were cleared, and the mysteries of the dispatch system were clarified and explained in ways that revealed a logic and legitimacy to the process.
To verify the integrity of Broadway’s dispatch system (or to flush out a potential rat) the drivers’ representative sat down with Broadway management and pored through a number of trip records considered potentially suspicious. Broadway’s extensive computer files and GPS history made an audit of these events relatively easy. After a very deliberate process, the drivers’ rep walked away satisfied that Broadway’s dispatch system is clean.
Drivers with similar concerns are encouraged to contact Broadway management. Meanwhile, the drivers’ rep wishes to thank president Raye Miles and manager Steve Hext for their cooperation in examining dispatch records.
November 29, 2011
Vote on New Taxi Permits Postponed – Again
For the fourth time since last spring, the Transportation Board postponed its vote on issuing new taxi permits. Ten companies had applied for 287 new taxi permits during the April window for accepting permit applications.
In theory, city code requires staff to present a recommendation for approval or denial “at the next regularly scheduled Board meeting.” That would have been May. Instead, the vote was postponed until July. Then September. Then November. And now January.
The unprecedented series of delays was to allow staff to finish their report on working conditions and market demand in the taxi industry. Kathleen Butler at the Revenue Bureau expects to make the report available to Board members before the end of the calendar year.
It is likely that the January meeting will actually result in a vote, and optimists such as the drivers’ representative expect that no permits will be issued due to market saturation and a stagnant economy. Though all applicants express confidence that they’ll be granted new permits, the addition of any new taxis to Portland’s market would directly harm the ability of drivers to earn a basic living.
November 10, 2011.
In Memory of Mikhail Prodan, 1966-2011
Portland’s cabdriver community lost a dear friend on October 27th when Portland Taxi driver Mikhail Prodan passed away suddenly. On his last living day, Mikhail worked a full shift as a cabdriver. Later, he returned home, took a shower, and died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. He was just 45 years old.
Mikhail was born in Ukraine and came to America about 10 years ago. For the past nine years he drove a cab in Portland – first for Green Cab, and then for Portland Taxi where he drove cab #1 – a red-stickered Toyota minivan.
His family and colleagues remember him as a loving family man, a devout member of the Seventh Day Adventist faith, and a hard working cabbie who caused no accidents and earned no tickets. He is survived by his wife Maria and their six children.
On the day before Halloween, Mikhail was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery in a service attended by upwards of 300 friends, relatives, and co-workers. Drivers from all Portland cab companies paid their last respects at his graveside as an autumn rain fell and a choir sang gently in Russian.
Mikhail died just weeks before his eldest son was to be married. He is the second cabdriver Portland’s taxi community lost this year. A Green Cab driver died this spring at the age of 47.
Rest in Peace Mikhail Prodan, September 1, 1966 – October 27, 2011. You will be missed.
October 31, 2011
Transportation Board Approves Anti-Kickback Ordinance - Again
The Private For-Hire hire Transportation Board of Review voted a second time to approve the anti-kickback ordinance drivers have been seeking for years. Unlike the first vote of an earlier draft, the second vote finalized the revised version of proposed city ordinance 16.40.710, allowing the measure to advance to the city council. If approved by the mayor and city commissioners, the ordinance will become an enforceable law within Portland city limits.
It is not yet known when the anti-kickback ordinance will be scheduled for a vote by the city council. Hopefully, it will be enacted as law by the end of 2011.
September 30, 2011
Broadway Driver Carjacked at Gunpoint
In the early morning of September 16th, a Broadway cabdriver faced every driver’s worst nightmare. After picking up a passenger at a Shari’s restaurant on SE McLaughlin Blvd. in Oregon City, the passenger drew a gun and aimed it at the cabdriver.
The gunman’s motives were not entirely clear. The driver was not robbed, and thankfully, not harmed. Instead, the gunman told him to exit his Prius and surrender the car. The driver did as he was told and the taxi was later found abandoned near Beavercreek Road outside Mollala.
The carjacker has been described as a white male in his 40s, about 5 foot six inches and 160 pounds with brown/gray hair. He was said to be wearing a dark shirt and hat and blue jeans at the time. Clackamas County deputies tracked the suspect using police dogs, but no arrests have yet been made.
The matter was reported locally on KGW television and on KATU, channel 2.
September 18th, 2011.
Are Taxis a Green Transportation Option?
A Seattle-based think tank recently published an online article suggesting that expanded taxi fleets in the Pacific Northwest would promote “green” values and sustainable communities. The article states that
…plentiful, affordable taxis facilitate greener urban travel. They help families shed second cars, ride transit more often, and walk to work on could-be-rainy days. They fill gaps in transit systems and provide a fallback in case of unexpected events.
An accompanying chart goes on to suggest that more taxis per thousand residents equates with lower taxi rates.
The article, written by Vince Houmes and published by the Sightline Institute, may (or may not) make several valid points. But it suffers from a lack of relevant perspective that begs to be clarified.
Houmes begins by comparing taxis to pizza delivery cars. Since regulating and restricting pizza delivery cars (with “Pizza Delivery Oversight Boards”) seems absurd, restricting the number of taxis in an urban setting must be equally absurd. “Substitute “taxicab” for “pizza delivery””, writes Houmes, “and you have a reasonable facsimile of the taxi industry in Portland…”
Uh… no. Apples and oranges actually have more in common than pizza delivery cars and taxis. A lot more.
To begin with, pizza delivery drivers are all salaried employees. Their numbers reflect the needs of their employers.
Cabdrivers in Seattle and Portland are self-employed, independent contractors. A cabdriver’s independence is his motivation to work hard and seek opportunity. This provides a key incentive towards delivering customer service. Taxi numbers are therefore regulated to strike a balance between the needs of the community and the economic viability of taxi industry workers.
Decades of experience in cities across the country show a common pattern with taxicab permitting; an excess of taxis reduces the earnings of drivers. This causes economic stress and invariably leads to a host of social problems such as fighting over fares, kickbacks and payoffs to gain economic advantage, overcharging customers, speeding, and refusal to service short fares. Depressed wages drive the most qualified and experienced drivers away from the taxi industry.
(This letter in the Chicago Tribune describes how depressed cabdriver earnings compromise public safety. It suggests that Chicago taxi rates should be increased so drivers can earn a decent living without taking risky shortcuts with public safety.)
Sightline’s article contends that increased competition would benefit customers by reducing fares. This would in turn increase ridership and generate more business for taxi drivers. This argument seems momentarily plausible. Unfortunately, it is at odds with the commercial realities of the taxi industry.
Everyone appreciates lower fares, and keeping taxi rates low provides some incentive for people to use taxis more frequently. But much of the taxi industry’s base ridership comes from people for whom access to reliable taxi services is of greater concern than minor discrepancies in rates.
Taxi ridership rises and falls in accordance with airline travel rates, conventions and cultural events, hotel occupancy, and overall economic activity. Taxi customers include the elderly and physically challenged, people who’ve lost their licenses or otherwise don’t drive, medical patients, people whose schedules and lifestyles are not routinely served by public transportation, people whose cars are not operative, business travelers and tourists, and of course, drunken revelers.
As taxi rates fluctuate in step with other economic forces, these core constituents will still require taxi services. Lower rates may mean better tips for drivers. But modestly higher rates won’t dissuade travelers who rely on taxis for their transportation needs. Lower taxi rates won’t increase hotel occupancy, air travel, or the need for disabled seniors to attend a medical appointment. Lower rates do little to increase taxi ridership.
Sightline’s graphic chart shows Portland and Seattle’s taxi rates at or near average as compared to other American cities. It’s hard to equate “average” with problematic. And the statistical data shown is too inconsistent to sustain the argument that more taxis will result in lower fares. Clearly this is not the case in Boston or Las Vegas.
It’s also worth considering that a fare reduction of twenty cents per mile – historically, a significant change – would reduce Portland’s average 5-mile cab fare from $16.50 to $15.50. Would this $1 savings result in increased ridership among homeward bound revelers who’ve just spent an evening in nightclubs, restaurants and bars? That one extra dollar after a festive night on the town hardly seems like a deal breaker.
It’s entirely plausible that taxis can play a significant role in reducing single-occupant car travel in urban environments, thus helping to promote ecological sustainability. And those of us who work in the taxi business welcome the support of socially responsible community planners.
But these planners need to appreciate the uniqueness of taxi services.
Think of taxis as midway between public and private transportation. Though taxis are privately owned and operated for profit, their broader social functions must be upheld with responsible public regulation. People need reliable transportation options with minimal risk of cutthroat free-market mayhem. Putting more taxis on the streets – especially during these times of sustained economic recession – will wreak havoc on drivers’ already marginal earnings. This is not in the community’s best interests.
A better option by far – at least in Portland – is to enforce existing regulations against illegal transportation providers whose theft of taxi services undermines the industry’s ability to expand. Towncars, airport shuttles, and unlicensed taxis annually deprive legitimate cabdrivers of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Restoring these lost earnings would be a crucial first step in expanding Portland’s taxi fleet without inflicting economic harm upon the workers who keep it operative.
Another constructive idea would be the conversion of the taxi permitting process from the archaic and troublesome company-controlled model, to a more consumer-friendly, driver-controlled one. This restructuring recognizes that to taxi companies, the real customers are not passengers – they are the drivers who pay to access their leasing and dispatch services. A driver-controlled permitting model would force companies to compete for driver contracts, thus nurturing the type of free market efficiencies that result in competitive pricing. This in turn would help alleviate upward pressures on taxi rates and encourage higher ridership volumes.
August 19, 2011
At long last, the Private For-Hire Transportation Board of Review has approved an ordinance that would officially outlaw kickbacks between drivers and hotel doormen. The Board voted unanimously at its July 13th meeting to adopt an ordinance written by city staff based on similar laws in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The ordinance includes provisions against accepting or offering payments in exchange for fare referrals and applies to all for-hire drivers, hotel employees, and dispatchers. Fines for first offenses are a stiff $1,500. Subsequent offenses can reach as high as $3,500 with suspensions and revocations of driver permits. Fines may also be imposed on taxi companies and hotels, not just drivers and doormen.
Technically, the Board hasn’t officially passed the ordinance. A few minor revisions and clarifications remain to be set in final form. But the Board did vote to approve the ordinance in principle and will officially adopt the final language in September.
The first paragraph however, will likely remain unchanged. It reads:
- All private for-hire transportation drivers are prohibited from providing payment to hotel staff, dispatchers, or any other person for referral of a passenger or passengers.
The ordinance also prohibits for-hire vehicles from lingering in hotel loading zones without a reservation:
- Other than for drop off, for-hire vehicles may not park in the hotel zone without a reservation… Taxicabs may not park in the hotel zone or loading/unloading zone prior to 15 minutes before pick up…
Once approved by the Transportation Board, the ordinance will be sent to the city commissioners for their approval, at which point the ordinance becomes an enforceable law. Drivers should expect this law to take effect by the end of 2011.
July 14, 2011
Kickback Scheme Gains Media Attention
The Portland Oregonian, KOIN 6 television, and Oregon Public Broadcasting all gave recent coverage to the ongoing kickback scheme at downtown Portland hotels.
The Oregonian first published an online article "Portland Cabdrivers Push For Ban on Kickbacks" by journalist Beth Slovic on the evening of July 12th. This article aired grievances by frustrated drivers over kickback-seeking doormen, and addressed steps being taken by the city to curtail this problem. The online edition included a video interview with driver’s representative Red Diamond.
The article would next appear as front page news when the print edition hit the streets the following morning. (Front page!) This edition arrived just hours before the Private For-Hire Transportation Board of Review was set to vote on officially banning kickbacks between drivers and doormen.
By 10:00 am that day, KOIN 6 television was interviewing the driver’s representative and producing their own segment for local broadcast. Word has it that OPB radio also broadcast a segment on the plan to eradicate kickbacks.
The Oregonian’s article offers a few insights as to how the kickback scheme is publicly perceived. First, the editors chose to run the article on the front page of their paper – the largest daily newspaper in the state of Oregon. This suggests that the editors recognized the kickback conflict as one with high social relevance that would have strong resonance with their readers.
Next, the fact that hotel managers largely failed to return Ms. Slovic’s calls seeking comment shows how unwilling hotels are to see any light shined on their kickback schemes. The one hotel manager who did go on record quickly launched into “lie and deny” mode with her absurd comment that, “It doesn’t happen at my hotel (The Hilton)… and I don’t think it happens at other hotels.” Anyone familiar with the realities of the Portland hotel scene will recognize those comments as patently false.
The fact that other media outlets chose to cover this issue following the Oregonian’s lead also suggests that kickbacks are viewed with suspicion by a skeptical public.
Later that evening the Oregonian ran a followup article “Portland ban on tips-for-fares scheme moves ahead with cabdrivers’ support” announcing the Transportation Board’s unanimous decision to approve the anti-kickback ordinance. As a side note, Ms. Slovic’s blog that week took a lighthearted look at the driver’s representative’s name, noting that it is identical to a fictitious private eye created by a local author. "Taxi, Portland City Hall and the case of two Red Diamonds"
July 13, 2011.
On Friday, July 8th the driver’s representative submitted a hefty petition to Transportation Board administrator Kathleen Butler asking that the city of Portland officially adopt an anti-bribery ordinance to prohibit the exchange of money for fares at Portland hotels. A total of 301 signatures were collected – all but a handful from drivers.
The full text of the petition reads as follows:
- IN RECOGNITION that a widespread practice exists throughout Portland whereby dishonest taxi, towncar, and shuttle drivers routinely give “kickbacks” to hotel employees in exchange for preferential access to hotel guests requiring transportation services, and IN RECOGNITION that such bribery results in dishonest taxi service, substandard hotel service, the fraudulent manipulation of hotel guests, and the loss of wages among honest drivers, and IN RECOGNITION that such practices are contrary to the ethical principles espoused by the citizens of Portland and its many visitors, WE THE UNDERSIGNED ask that The City of Portland pass an ANTI-BRIBERY ORDINANCE to prohibit the exchange of money from for-hire transportation drivers and their offices to any hotel employee in the City of Portland for the purpose of access to fares.
Ms. Butler would later acknowledge the substance of the petition at the Board’s meeting on July 13th when the anti-kickback ordinance was voted upon. The fact that over 300 signatures were collected in a city with a total taxi fleet of 382 permitted vehicles showed how strongly the vast majority of drivers feel about the effects of corruption at Portland hotels.
The petition included a well-utilized comments box where drivers expressed their opinions directly. Many of these comments were read aloud by the driver’s representative at the Board’s July meeting. The following is but a brief sample of the opinions expressed by drivers on the petition.
“We need justice!”
“Clean up downtown!”
“Bribery is unethical and bad for the city’s image.”
“We need respect!”
“We need to fix corruption in our city.”
“They look like nice hotels, but they’re not nice to us.”
“Hotels are corrupted.”
“The doorman sells our fares.”
“We need a fair chance to make an honest living.”
“Still after years, we are being cheated.”
“The city of Portland must show leadership on this issue.”
“Towncars are stealing my customers.”
“If they get caught they should be fired.”
“Benson, Lucia, Nines Hotel, Embassy Suites… they’re all bad. I wait one hour and they steal my fare.”
“The situation needs to be cleaned up.”
“The doorman at the Monaco Hotel told me he keeps a special cab for airport runs. Everyone else gets short trips.”
“I see how the doormen get money at the Hotel Lucia in the morning.”
“The shuttle steals my fares at the Marriott Hotel. It’s wrong!”
“Kickbacks are unethical.”
“The Hilton is the worst.”
“Ready Ride Shuttle is a big problem. His license is 841 EVH.”
“”Aloha towncar steals fares from the Marriott City Center. Plate # 856 FCA.”
“Radio Cab #38 steals fares at the Monaco.”
“Don’t sell the passengers.”
“The doormen are like prostitutes.”
“I am against corruption.”
“I see towncars take my customers at the Embassy Suites.”
“Bribery is unfair.”
“Get them. Give them fines.”
“Bribery is a poor business practice.”
“This is wrong, immoral, and unethical. It hurts the hotel customers and the hotel’s image.”
“The kickback cab sits at the front door and blocks our parking.”
“We need to fight against hotel corruption!”
“The Westin is the worst!”
“Marriott City Center, Hilton Executive, The Nines, and The Courtyard Marriott are the worst.”
“We wait sometimes two hours, but the hotel calls another driver.”
“The bribe or kickback causes a big problem for the image of Portland.”
“The hotels are not fair to drivers and guests.”
“I feel cheated.”
“I am anti-corruption.”
“We deserve to earn a living.”
“The most corrupt city I have ever seen.”
“The doormen take money for fares.”
“Cabdrivers are cheated at hotels.”
“We don’t get anything good from the hotels because the doormen are corrupt.”
“Hotels should not sell passengers.”
“I lose customers every day because the doormen are corrupt.”
“Make the bribery illegal.”
“The doormen take money and give my customers to other cabs.”
“Marriott City Center, Hilton 6th Avenue, Heathman Hotel – all corrupt.”
“I want to take action against all kinds of bribes.”
“This looks bad for the city.”
“It is not the American way.”
“Fix this problem!”
July 10, 2011
Perhaps the most important transportation meeting of the year will be held on Wednesday, July 13th at the Portland Revenue Bureau offices. On the agenda will be the anti-kickback ordinance and consideration of 255 new taxi permit applications from ten different taxi companies.
Most people expect that no new taxi permits will be issued, though this is still possible.
But the Board’s consideration of the anti-kickback ordinance is a rare and valuable opportunity for meaningful reform of the taxi industry. Cabdrivers have been waiting for years for the City to provide the legal structure to end the illicit kickback scheme that has plagued our industry for decades. The moment has finally arrived!!!
The Private For-Hire Transportation Board of Review’s meeting will begin at 1:30 pm sharp in the Revenue Bureau offices at 111 SW Columbia Street in downtown Portland. The meeting will be held in a conference room on the 8th floor. This meeting is open to the public and ALL CABDRIVERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND!!! Sign up at 1:30 to make a two-minute commentary.
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!!!
July 1, 2011
Kickback Costs to The Taxi Industry
CAPO estimates that hotel kickback schemes cost Portland’s taxi industry an estimated $750,000 in 2010 – possibly more.
The figure of $750,000 is arrived at using the following methods:
If ten hotels in Portland sell ten airport trips each daily, and if the standard kickback is $10, then 10 x 10 x 10 = $1000 per day in kickback revenue directed to hotel doormen. That’s $365,000 worth of kickbacks collected by hotel doormen annually. Most likely none of this gets reported as taxable income.
If two-thirds of these kickbacks derive from taxis, then cabdrivers directly forfeit $240,900 annually.
If the remaining third comes from illegal towncar and shuttle services, that’s 12,045 stolen taxi trips. And if the average trip would have earned a cabdriver $38, then 12,045 x 38 = $457,710 worth of taxi business lost to kickback towncars and shuttles.
The combination of direct kickback losses and lost business adds up to nearly $700,000 of lost revenues to the taxi industry. Yet this number is almost certainly a conservative underestimate. While there is no way of knowing exactly how much money taxi drivers lose to corrupt hotels each year, the facts suggest it is not likely to be less than $700,000 and may perhaps be as much as $1 million.
May 22, 2011.
The PFHT Board of Review voted yesterday to formalize an anti-bribery ordinance that would officially prohibit kickbacks between drivers and hotel doormen. This long overdue measure seeks to finally end the notorious corruption at downtown Portland hotels.
The City cited similar ordinances passed in recent years in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica, California as models worth emulating. PFHT program administrator Kathleen Butler related that Los Angeles regulators are very pleased with the results they've seen since their anti-kickback law took effect in early 2010. Butler expressed optimism that a similar program in Portland would do much to solve problems within the transportation industry.
Taxi Driver's Representative Red Diamond spoke at length on the corrupting effect of kickbacks, citing consumer fraud, economic loss, and driver confrontations as just a few reasons to bring fairness and integrity to the streets of downtown Portland. Two drivers from Radio Cab also spoke in favor of kickbacks as an important means of helping doormen pay their mortgages.
The Board of Review will formalize the language of Portland's own anti-bribery ordinance during the next two months and will likely bring the matter up for a vote in July.
May 13, 2011
Are Taxi Drivers Independent Contractors or “Employees”?
Since the dawn of taxi time, Portland cabdrivers have always had the opportunity to work as self-employed independent contractors. But last year the Oregon Employment Department audited several taxi companies and concluded that drivers should be legally recognized as “employees” of the companies they drive for.
Taxi companies are now challenging this decision in court and in the state legislature. But if upheld, the Department’s findings could result in the most radical restructuring of the taxi industry Oregon has ever seen. Drivers could potentially be forced to hand over their earnings to the companies who would then deduct taxes and issue weekly paychecks. The traditional independence cabdrivers enjoy would be replaced by requirements to serve company demands, and opportunities for entrepreneurial gain would be replaced by an hourly wage with reduced work hours and tax withholdings.
Taxi companies are not eager to embrace these types of expensive inefficiencies, and drivers don’t want to earn meager wages with new taxes. Hundreds of drivers expressed their opposition to the Employment Department’s ruling by signing a petition asking the state to respect their wish to continue working as independent contractors. And taxi companies throughout Oregon have been lobbying the legislature in support of a bill that would nullify the Employment Department’s ruling. The taxi driver’s representative has also lobbied on behalf of preserving the right of taxi drivers to maintain their self-employed lifestyle.
The Oregon legislature has responded by stalling the taxi bill, effectively forcing the companies to incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs as they take the matter to court. Ultimately, taxi drivers bear the brunt of these expenses as their weekly kitties go towards unnecessary legal expenses.
So if taxi drivers and taxi companies would lose on this measure, who stands to gain? The Employment Department might benefit somewhat if more workers pay unemployment taxes. But the real winners would be the unions and the politicians who serve them.
Specifically, the Communications Workers of America has been lobbying to block the taxi bill and allow the new ruling to take effect. The CWA is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO and primarily works with telephone operators and call takers. Several years ago a CWA local helped organize taxi drivers in Denver, Colorado. The Denver taxi market has since become oversaturated with hundreds of new taxis causing drivers to earn less money than ever before.
If taxi drivers are forced to accept employee status, Portland cabbies will find themselves as low-wage workers beholden to the companies who pay them. The CWA could then step in and organize them as dues paying union members.
By allowing drivers to become wage-slaves, the CWA would effectively convert this workforce to the employment status they prefer. It saves them the trouble of having to address the actual working needs of drivers as they are and allows them to treat the taxi industry as though it were the same as industries where the unions have meaningful experience. In this manner, the union would grow its ranks, and the politicians they support would broaden their support base.
It is unlikely that the Employment Department’s ruling will stand. But defeating it will require taxi companies to spend huge sums of money – money that comes from drivers and will drain away from the taxi industry.
For its support of this harmful and misguided policy, CAPO extends a big sarcastic “thankyou” to the CWA for costing us so much and accomplishing so little.
May 10, 2011
Santa Monica, California Passes Anti-Bribery Law
This Los Angeles Times article discusses Santa Monica's new anti-bribery law and references a similar ordinance prohibiting kickbacks to hotel doormen in Los Angeles. Note how the last sentence refers to enforcement of this new law by actual police officers. A similar report appears in USA Today.Articles:
April 24th, 2011
116 New Taxi Permits Defeated
In September 2010 the City received applications from three taxi companies for a total of 116 new taxi permits. New Rose City Taxi requested 60 new permits; Green Cab, 32; and Portland Taxi, 24. If granted, these new permits would have increased the total Portland taxi fleet by just over 30%.
A vote on these requests was originally scheduled for January 2011. Due to a lack of time at January’s Board meeting, the vote was rescheduled for February. The February meeting was ultimately canceled due to snow forecasts. In March, the Board finally voted unanimously to deny all new taxi permits.
April 15, 2011.
The Private For-Hire Transportation Board of Review voted twice this year to allow taxi companies to add an additional ten cents per mile to metered taxi rates. This comes on the heels of soaring fuel costs and brings the total metered rate to $2.50 per mile. City code describes these rate hikes as “imposed” by the Board though the increase is strictly voluntary once approved. All taxi companies have since recalibrated their meters to incorporate the new rates.
In October 2009 the City adopted a rate increase structure tied to the price of gasoline as listed by the Automobile Association of America. Eligibility for the first surcharge would take effect when gas prices reached $3.00 per gallon. Subsequent increases are tied to each additional $0.70 per gallon increase in the average local cost of gasoline.
Though a rate increase would seem to benefit drivers, those in attendance at January’s Standing Committee Meeting spoke out against it. Veteran drivers spoke of a perceived historic pattern where taxi companies seized on meter hikes as an opportunity to increase their kitties. Drivers overwhelmingly agreed that kitties are too high and that the likelihood of companies raising them following a rate increase was a serious concern. Some drivers also suggested that higher prices would drive away customers.
At Board of Review meetings in January and March, the taxi drivers’ representative spoke out against the fuel surcharges, while taxi company owners and managers argued strongly in favor of them. Company owner/managers were also responsible for bringing the rate hikes to the Board as an agenda item.
Thus far, only Radio Cab has raised its kitty by about $1000 annually for leased day shift drivers. Though this increase was imposed the same week as Board approval for the first fuel surcharge, the company’s general manager, Steve Entler, insists that the two events are not related.
The taxi drivers’ representative was the only Board member to vote in opposition to both rate hikes.
April 15, 2011.
Broadway Zone 233
Broadway and Sassy’s Cab drivers have seen a recent change in Zone 233 covering PDX airport. The zone had long been notorious for the computerized logjam that occurred when too many cabs booked into the airport backfield. The computer previously attempted to dispatch trips to airport cars that were otherwise not available for zone service. Isolating the backfield as a separate zone solved this problem. Zone 299 now covers the backfield exclusively while Zone 233 is liberated for service to area hotels and businesses.
Raye Miles, Broadway’s president, was happy to solve this problem for us, proving that Broadway management is responsive to the needs of its drivers. If you have other suggestions for improving efficiency and morale at Broadway, contact your driver’s representative.
April 14th, 2011
Following the publication of this article in the Oregonian, much talk was made of drivers forming a union and starting a new company called Union Cab. This occurred after a small group of anonymous cabbies formed a tentative partnership with a local branch of the Communications Workers of America. The CWA primarily works with telephone industry workers but helped organize taxi drivers in Denver, Colorado who went on to start the Union Taxi Cooperative there.
So what happened to Portland’s Union Cab drive? Looks like it crashed. Apparently the CWA hadn’t noticed that Portland’s taxi industry already suffers from market saturation and that adding more cabs would only dilute a depressed market among more drivers.
Even as established taxi companies who’ve served Portland for decades were being turned down for new permits, the CWA expected it could convince City Hall to grant an upstart company with no performance record 50 new taxi permits. Faced with the blunt reality that starting a new company and flooding Portland’s streets with new cabs would only harm the workers it sought to help, the CWA did an about face and withdrew its application.
April 10th, 2011