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Teamsters Win Settlement for Taxi Driver Barred From Speaking At Public Meeting


(WASHINGTON) – Teamsters Local 922 scored a major victory for a D.C. taxi driver who will receive a monetary settlement as part of an agreement reached with the city after he was barred from speaking at a D.C. Taxi Commission (DCTC) meeting over concerns that his accent made him difficult to understand.

Taxi driver Bereket Yetbarck was not allowed to speak at a DCTC meeting on Nov. 13 without a written copy of his remarks, which the commission required because, according to commissioner Paul Cohn, “a lot of cab drivers have difficulty with our language” (video here). However, later during the meeting, a U.S.-born driver was allowed to speak despite not having a written statement since, according to Cohn, “we do understand you.”

Ferline Buie, President of Teamsters Local 922, denounced the DCTC’s actions in a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray. D.C. cab drivers formed the Washington, D.C. Taxi Operators Association and affiliated with Local 922 in October 2013.

“Let this serve as a warning to the DCTC and the city – we will not allow any government entity to marginalize DC.’s taxicab drivers,” Buie said. “Taxicab drivers deserve to be treated with respect and they should be provided with an open forum to voice their concerns without fear of discrimination.”

As part of the settlement, the District of Columbia will pay $5,500 for damages and attorneys’ fees. The settlement is not an admission of fault or liability by the defendants.

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