Submitted by Pancho Valdez
“If one man has a dollar he didn’t work for, some other man worked for a dollar he didn’t get.” Bill Haywood, Founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World, socialist
For most of us who work or who have worked for a living, there are/were always issues about our jobs that we disliked. For the 550 cab drivers of the Greater San Antonio Transportation Company d.b.a. Yellow Cab the issues they face on a daily basis are more than many of us could endure.
Mike Hill, 55 has driven a Yellow cab for about nine years. He says that it’s a job he enjoys doing as it is a needed service for the public. However he’s quick to point out that working conditions and compensation leave a lot to be desired.” We work 12-16 hours daily, not because we like to, but it’s the only way we can earn enough money to live on. Many of us are lucky if we keep an equivalent of the minimum wage. We have drivers that are homeless and actually sleep and eat in their cabs!”
Unlike most of us, Yellow Cab drivers are not considered by the company to be “employees.” Instead Yellow Cab has unilaterally classified the drivers as “independent contractors.” What this translates to is that cab drivers have no health care benefits, no vacation, no paid holidays, no pension, no sick leave or disability, and either own their cabs or pay a lease fee of $105 daily to Yellow Cab, purchase their own gasoline, oil, insurance, maintenance and repair costs and any other costs associated with operation of the cab. As “independent contractors” drivers do not come under the jurisdiction of the EEOC, the Hour & Wage Division of the U.S. Dept. of Labor, OSHA or the NLRB.
Hill went on to say that about half of the drivers own their cabs and half lease the cabs from Yellow. He added that while many of the drivers are barely making it, some don’t and quit. He acknowledged that a few are earning decent money, but these tend to be the exception rather than the rule.
What angers Hill and other drivers is that the company has all drivers sign an agreement that basically gives Yellow the option to raise lease fees as the company sees fit. Hill further said that the agreement is very one sided, frequently violated by Yellow, and drivers are forced to sign under duress. In other words, you sign it or don’t work.
Mike Hill said that he was told by an agent of the Internal Revenue that only the IRS can determine classifications, not the company. It is an issue festering amongst cabbies, FedEx delivery drivers and others across the nation. Hill said that the local Yellow Cab determines everything about their job, dress code, grooming standards, who to pick up as well as at random drug screening.
“How can they say we are independent contractors, if they determine everything about the duties of a cab driver? How are we self employed as they claim?”
In New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and other major urban areas drivers have organized a union, the National Taxi Workers Alliance that recently affiliated with the AFL-CIO. In Oakland, California cab drivers filed with the NLRB to be represented by the Teamsters Union. The cab company, Friendly Cab appealed the election. Last week the 9th Circuit Court ruled in favor of the drivers, a precedent that gives much hope to cab drivers and other transportation workers misclassified as independent contractors across the nation!
This historic ruling may even apply to Port of Los Angeles, Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma harbor truck drivers, most of whom are immigrants either from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, or Africa. I
n Seattle about 35-40% of the truckers are engaged in a work stoppage that affected all traffic at that port on January, 31st. For these workers the wheels of justice have been slow, but justice appears to have finally arrived.