Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Message from Mark Gruberg UTW

The outrage over the MTA's decision to stick cab drivers with 5% processing fees for credit charges is enormous. 5% is far more than other vendors pay for this service, and basides, these charges should be the responsibility of cab companies, not drivers.

Drivers are also upset by the prospect of electronic waybills and moinitoring. Where will the information be stored? Who will have access to it? And for what purposes? What safeguards will be put in place to ensure the security of the information and the privacy of its contents? We've gotten no answers from Big Brother. But if this goes through, we know he'll be watching.

The enormous protest that took place at last week's MTA meeting -- drivers by the hundreds circling City Hall in a solid line around the block, and providing two hours of public comment -- shows that we are not going to take these decision lying down.

In response to the protests, the MTA has set up Town Hall meetings on May 10, 11 and 16. I've attached the schedule. (The issue of electronic waybills has been taken off the agenda for these meetings because, the MTA says, it will come up at a later time.) While it's likely that these meetings have been arranged to tap off some of the anger and give the impression that the MTA is listening, it's worthwhile to attend nonetheless, if only to keep up the pressure and continue to drive home our message.

The most important meeting, however, will be the MTA Board meeting of May 17. At that time, the Board will be taking up long-overdue meter increase as well as the credit card issue.

Except for one 25-cent hike in the flag drop a few years back, we haven't had a meter increase since January 2003 -- that is, in over eight years. In the meantime, gates, gas and the cost of living have all increased substantially. (Gas prices were $1.69 a gallon in January 2003!) Now, at last, they seem willing to go ahead with an increase, probably because they think it will cool drivers' anger and divert their attention from the other issues. We should have none of that. We deserve a meter increase AND relief from credit card charges AND excessive government intrusion into our workday (and worknight) lives. As many drivers said at the last hearing, if you're going to control us as if we are your employees, we want the rest of the package -- higher income, job benefits, better working conditions and a say over the terms of our employment.

The taxi portion of the MTA meeting is going to take place at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, in City Hall, Room 400. EVERYBODY -- and I mean EVERYBODY -- must show up. We will be living with the decisions made at this meeting for years to come.

This is a defining moment in our industry and our jobs. Drivers are sick and tired of the second-hand treatment we get from our regulators, who see us mainly as cash cows for Muni's budget problems. It's time we fought back -- and NOW is the time.

I'm attaching a flyer about the upcoming meetings. Pass it on to other drivers. Post it at your garage. And above all, COME AND SPEAK YOUR MIND BEFORE THE MTA.

Mark Gruberg

United Taxicab Workers

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