More than 1,000 taxi drivers in the nation’s capital attended the first meeting of the new Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association recently in support for a strong affiliation with the Teamsters as the city imposes costly industry changes affecting their livelihoods.
Affiliated with Local 922 in D.C., the association is a powerful, united voice for the more than 6,000 taxi drivers in Washington who are independent owner and lease-operators.
“The taxi drivers in Washington, D.C. are angry and fed up by the lack of communication and input they have regarding the policies that affect their lives every day,” said Ferline Buie, International Vice President and President of Local 922. “We may not win every battle, but we will fight for all the association’s members to make sure their voices are heard.”
The drivers adopted provisional bylaws for the organization and voted to officially affiliate with Local 922.
Drivers initially approached the Teamsters in late September after the city imposed confusing and costly regulations without their input. For example, new required dome lights cost about $450, double what drivers were initially told. Also, service fees and transaction fees for new credit card machines are burdensome, and vendors are taking a very long time to pay drivers.
“The Teamsters will help us have a say before the regulations are imposed by the city. With our association with the Teamsters, we are in good hands,” said Addis Gebreselassie, who has driven a cab in D.C. for the past 12 years.
Last year, Seattle Teamsters organized more than 500 taxi drivers into the Western Washington Taxicab Operators Association. The association works closely with the union and has improved working conditions for taxi cab operators throughout the Seattle area. In D.C., drivers’ response to the new association has been tremendous.
In the first three weeks of getting the word out, more than 1,000 drivers signed up to join.
“I’ve been driving a cab part-time since 1962, so I know that this association with the Teamsters is badly needed for the drivers,” said Stan Tapscott, a member of the D.C. Taxicab Commission for the past decade and supporter of the association. “The association will help educate drivers about the policies imposed by the city and it will stand up for drivers. The association will also help us get more representation on the taxicab commission.”
The drivers’ association with the Teamsters Union has already drawn considerable attention to their plight, but the actions of the group are pushing the issue further into the spotlight. In early November, more than 200D.C. taxi drivers gathered to march to the mayor’s office to demand fair treatment, and a similar event was planned for mid-November in front of the D.C. Taxicab Commission.