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Cabbies United

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jul 23, 2007 1:30PM

The Chicago Tribune reported on Friday that the 11,000 people who drive taxi cabs in Chicago are considering organizing a union. Based on the organizing model that led to the successful Taxi Workers Alliance in New York City, organizers here are hoping to duplicate those achievements here in Chicago as well.

2007_7_cabbing_it.JPGAs the price of gasoline has soared, taxi drivers have been hit hardest on their bottom line - take home income. Cab drivers have already petitioned for a fare increase - something the city hasn't yet taken action on. That's good news for people that take cabs, but bad news for cab drivers. Just driving a vehicle out of the garage leaves you in debt to the cab company you lease from, not counting the cost of filling up. Adding to cab driver woes is the city's requirement that each cab driver answer one call a day from an "underserved" neighborhood, taking them away from area that might yield several, higher-paying fares in the same amount of time.

Overall, the requirements that the Department of Consumer Affairs imposes on cabbies seem fair: a three strikes-and-you're-out rule for poorly maintained cabs, 25 more wheelchair-accessible cabs, a requirement that drivers answer twice as many radio dispatch calls-a-day, and a requirement that GPS systems capable of tracking the speed and location of cabs be installed. But when people are working 14 and 17 hour days and taking home less than minimum wage, the city has an obligation to do something about that as well. The knee-jerk reaction is to stick it to consumers: start hiking fares and tacking on surcharges to cover the difference. Perhaps it's time for the city to reconsider the cost of medallions and the charges that cab companies impose for leasing a vehicle, putting a little more money in the pockets of cab drivers. Chicago may also want to take note of New York Mayor Bloomberg's plan to bring hybrid taxis to town; with all that city driving, fuel economy could be dramatically improved, and it would play well with Daley's plan to make Chicago the greenest city in the nation.

Image via Insomnia Jones J.D.