Dec. 4, more than 200 drivers gathered at a church in northeast D.C. for the first general meeting of The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers. As luck would have it, the one-year-old organization was created shortly before the introduction of a taxi medallion bill which, had it passed, would have resulted in thousands of drivers being put out of work and control of the industry being consolidated into the hands of a few powerful players. As a result of the SBA’s organizing efforts, however, the medallion effort was thwarted; and D.C.’s taxi industry remains unique in that it is largely made up of independent owner/operators.
(Thanks to Seth Jackson for producing this video.)
Today, there’s talk of a fare increase, which might be more accurately termed a “fare restoration.” Under Mayor Fenty, drivers lost 30 percent of their income as a result of the switch from a zone to a meter system. Actually, it wasn’t the switch that caused drivers financial hardship, but the fact that the meter was artificially set at one of the lowest rates in the country.
It remains unclear what reforms drivers will be forced to accept in order to see their income approach that of a living wage. Most recently, the D.C. Taxicab Commission attempted to force drivers to buy a new car every five years, a move that would have driven many out of business. The SBA successfully thwarted taxi chair Ron Linton’s efforts on this front; and now the organization must prepare for the next wave of reforms that are being discussed behind closed doors, without drivers present.
Taxi Leader Haimanot Bizuayehu Visits Occupy DC Oct. 31, 2011