Thursday, October 31, 2013

1,000 DC taxi drivers join Teamsters

A thousand Washington, D.C., taxi drivers, angry about expensive and unfair regulation, are banding together with Teamsters Local 922 in a new way of organizing workers.

For their first formal meeting, the drivers crowded into the union hall on Tuesday and packed the parking lot, listening to the proceedings on a loudspeaker. Local reporters were keenly interested in the story. Reported dcist:
"We will win!" the crowd chanted after Ferline Buie, president of Teamsters Local 922, said that the union would help drivers win "fairness, justice, equality, dignity and respect" through their new association. 
"We're here to tell the D.C. Taxicab Commission that these regulations have been handled totally unfair," Buie said. "We need more time to deal with these new and costly regulations. We also want to make sure that the drivers aren't burdened ... with the costs of these new regulations."
The drivers are independent, so they can't join the Teamsters in the traditional way. What they can do -- and did -- is form a dues-paying association so together they can  oppose costly and unfair regulations from the local taxi commission. Washington state taxi drivers did the same thing last year. It's part of a national alt-labor movement that includes fast food workers, Walmart workers and farmworkers.

The Talking Union blog describes alt-labor as:
...forms of worker representation that don’t fit in the traditional union/collective bargaining mold. Perhaps best known are the “worker centers” found in many cities, often affiliated with Interfaith Worker Justice. These walk-in centers perform admirable work helping workers who lack union membership to seek justice when they have been cheated of wages or hurt on the job; many focus especially on the needs of immigrant workers. Other experiments are modeled after professional associations or advocacy groups.
Drivers have high hopes for their new association.

"We need a strong voice, and our association with Local 922 will give us that strong voice!" Mohamud Samantar, a driver for 10 years, told the crowd. "We need our rights and our association with Local 922 will give us our rights."

"We need all drivers to stand united to fight for our rights. When we are united, we will win our rights," said Stan Tapscott, a driver since 1962 and D.C. Taxicab Commission member.

Addis Gebreselassie, a driver for more than 12 years with Silver Cab, said he had a speech written down, but was opting to not read that speech. Instead, he delivered these three words from the podium: "No more disrespect." The crowd applauded and then began chanting "No more disrespect!"

To follow the Washington, D.C., taxi drivers fight, go to their website here.