Tensions between the taxicab franchises and their drivers' local union are on the rise this week after the association caught wind of news that Yellow Cab President Ed Kargbo had introduced a petition opposing City Council's consideration of awarding 405 new permits to the proposed driver-owned taxicab co-op.
Kargbo told the Chronicle on Monday that he started the petition in hopes of giving a voice to what he calls the majority of cab drivers, who oppose implementing a co-op because the current economy can't support it. He added that the petition's been circulating for a week but he can't yet disclose how many drivers have signed on in support of it.
The petition to "Preserve Austin Taxi Drivers' Living Wage" suggests that the city's transportation economy would need to bring an additional $20 million in taxi fares into the city in order to properly sustain 250 more taxi drivers at an $80,000 gross revenue, which Kargbo says is the average gross drivers make. (Franchise owners and the Taxi Drivers Association of Austin could not be more disparate in their reporting of net incomes on average.) It notes that cab drivers "provide service to the poor, elderly, and disabled in Austin" and shouldn't be restricted by city regulations when transportation network companies aren't held accountable by any, and suggests that cab companies "must [be able to] justify additional growth" before new permits are "even considered."
Specifically, Kargbo's petition encourages City Council to reject whatever recommendation city management makes this spring regarding giving new permits to "the loud minority" – the co-op, to be organized by the TDAA. The decision to accept, it says, would "suspend social justice for the vast majority of professional taxi drivers who live, work, and vote in Austin."
TDAA President Dave Passmore took issue with the petition, calling it another form of intimidation from a franchise president. He believes those drivers who don't sign the petition will be viewed as taking a firm stance against the wishes of the three existing franchises: Yellow Cab, Austin Cab, and Lone Star Cab. He also said that Kargbo is grossly underestimating the TDAA's strength in describing membership as being only so strong as "30 to 50" drivers out of 800 within the city. He thinks Kargbo meant to write 50%. TDAA membership, he said, currently stands at nearly 400 drivers.
Kargbo acknowledged that his statistics "may be a year or two old," but said the reality is that TDAA doesn't represent the majority of taxicab drivers. He discounted the idea that he would use the petition as a means of intimidation for garnering support, saying that Passmore himself drives for Yellow Cab and "no one's getting fired" over this. He said the TDAA's accusations of unjust firings and ethical mistreatment of cab drivers are outright lies fashioned by the TDAA before Council.
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