Photo: b00nj Flickr

As independent contractors, cab drivers are notoriously hard to organize. But on Tuesday, in conjunction with a board meeting of the Municipal Transportation Authority (MTA), hundreds of them waved signs, filled the seats of the meeting room, and circled City Hall honking their horns, all in protest of new MTA rules that drivers see as patently unfair.

The biggest objection: a five percent fee cabbies now must pony up on every fare paid with a credit card, a payment option they are required to offer. Most small businesses pay somewhere between 2.5%-3% on credit card transactions, and cabbies want to know why they are being charged more.

Additionally, they are upset that at the end of a shift, money from credit card fares—minus the 5% fee—gets deposited in a bank account. They can’t access that money for 24 to 48 hours, and when they do, withdrawal fees often apply.

Drivers want to be able to pass on these extra costs to passengers, but haven’t gotten a fare hike since 2003.

Another oft-repeated complaint was about the new electronic waybill, which is meant to keep better track of where drivers go and how much they get paid for each fare. Drivers don’t want their financial information transmitted through a third party and are worried that info will be sent to the IRS.

As driver after driver stood in front of the MTA Board to protest, one thing was clear: They may be regulated by the MTA, but they do not feel represented on the board. Many drivers claim the agency does not know the taxi industry and invited board members to drive a cab for a day to see what it’s like.

Tariq Mehmood organized the protest. He claims that on average in 2000 a “gate and gas” taxi driver—someone who rents a cab for ten hours–could make $200 per shift. Now the average is somewhere between $100-140 because the cost to rent the cab has gone up, as have gas prices and other fees, while meter rates have not.

Once taxi drivers took over the MTA meeting, there wasn’t much comment from anyone else about why the new regulations were passed. The MTA plans to hold two town hall style meetings on May 11th and 16th for more public comment before their May 17th Board meeting when MTA staff will present on the taxi issues. If no changes come out of that meeting, taxi drivers I spoke to said they would strike until they got at least some of what they demand.

San Francisco Cabbies Honking Mad at New Fees 4 May,2011Katrina Schwartz

  • There were hundreds of taxi drivers showing up at the city hall today for a protest in room 400 over the 5% credit card fees being assessed when a driver takes a credit card as payment for a ride. Drivers are also concerned over electronic waybill machines being placed in their taxis. The electronic waybill machines have not been checked for radiation levels and could cause health issues for drivers if there is a long time exposure to this new equipment. Drivers are requesting an environmental study be done to ensure these machines are safe and would not have health risks for the driver.

    In addition Dean Clark was there to speak about the importance of uninsured motorist coverage for drivers as a safety net if involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist. As many of you know Dean Clark was in an accident last year suffering injuries that are long lasting and permanent. The National Cab company who Dean Clark works for did not have uninsured motorist coverage, nor carried insurance for the driver at the time of the accident.

    The SFMTA who has taken over the regulatory body of the taxi industry has been only focused on getting money and draining the pockets of San Francisco Taxi Drivers. The SFMTA should own up to the responsibility of ensuring public safety comes first to include the taxi driver and mandate that all cab companies insure their taxi drivers with full coverage insurance and to include uninsured motorist coverage insurance for every single taxi driver in San Francisco.

  • Cabbies Helping Cabbies an organization headed by Tariq and Syan are to hold a demonstration on May 17th starting at 12 Noon.

    Cab drivers in San Francisco feel as though they are being treated unfair and would like to separate from the SFMTA and have a taxi commission formed.

    As many of you know, San Francisco Taxi Drivers do not have health care nor any form of retirement.

    Last year the SFMTA was able to make 9 million and some change according to Chris Hyashi for the Muni Operators off the backs of the taxi drivers.

    Yet SFMTA has neglected safety issues such as making sure there are air bags in case there is an accident in one of the cabs.

    Please consider joining the cabbies on this day. Taxi Drivers need public Support!

    Many protests have been happening around the country and the cit to help other labor issues, such as teachers and city hall employees who want to save there pensions. The thousands of San Francisco Cab drivers keep getting railroaded and taken advantage of by SFMTA.

    San Francisco Taxi Cab Protest May 17th, City Hall

    Please support your cabbies!

    Tuesday, May 17 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm
    San Francisco City Hall
    Polk Street Side
    San Francisco, California


Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She’s worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She’s a staff writer for KQED’s education blog MindShift.

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