ELEVEN POSITION PAPERS
In the Form of a Report On the San Francisco Taxi Industry
July 2011
by Christopher Fulkerson
CLICK HERE for a pdf of the Report
This report was read by several leaders from among the SF Taxi drivers. Their corrections of fact have been included.

The photograph on the right is of Christopher Fulkerson speaking at one of the
SFMTA Taxi Town Hall meetings held in 2011. As of September 2011 none of the concensus found by the
community of drivers was put on any MTA Board agenda, or even officially acknowledged,
except a minimal Cost of Living increase, the first in eight years.

 

TOPICS OF THE PAPERS:
The Real Reason for the Cab Drivers’ Demands
Electronic “Waybills”
Mr. Tariq Mehmood and Electronic “Waybills”
Credit Card Fees
The Bad Result of Not Paying the Credit Card Fees
On the Three Percent Credit Card Charge
OPEN TAXI ACCESS
Tactics, or Lack of Them, at This Time
The Taxi Advisory Council
Three-Tiered Cab Driver Career Model
Mr. Tariq Mehmood

 

 

THE REAL REASON FOR THE CABS DRIVERS’ DEMANDS

A number of drivers are following the lead of one Tariq Mehmood.    Mr. Mehmood is a terrorist politician defending an illegal black market run by cab “brokers.”    Mr. Mehmood’s de facto mission is to divert issues away from the really serious criminal violations of anyone involved with the cab “brokers” who are working in tandem with most of the companies.

Let us start with the part of the situation that most of the drivers seem to understand.    Naturally, the drivers who object to the new credit card fees are not happy about paying these fees, and if it were thought that the issue were only about these fees, their discontent would, indeed, make sufficient sense to accept this discontent as their motivation.   For some of the drivers, certainly that is all they know.   But their objection is only being used as an excuse for something to complain about without talking about what’s really on their minds.

In fact, the drivers are trying to get out of paying income taxes.    This is most evident with Mr. Mehmood’s followers.   Another, less frequently discussed reason that they don’t want the credit card fees is because their transactions are being recorded and will be represented in an IRS 1099 form at the end of each year, evidently beginning in 2012.   This, they fear, will allow the IRS to better track their earnings and require them to pay income taxes they presently lie about, or shirk entirely.

Their objection to the “electronic waybills” is for similar reasons.   They talk as though the requirement for this sort of accountability is Big Brother interfering with their lives.    But their objection is not merely philosophical.   They believe “electronic waybills” will disrupt their present ability to stay “below the radar” and fail to report their true earnings.

Let it be observed that these “true earnings” are not only the money the drivers are making, and getting out of paying taxes on by writing falsified waybills - a nearly universal industry problem.    (The “e-waybills” will reveal the vast majority of drivers to have been turning in fraudulent waybills.    It will be seen that there has never, ever been a time that the waybills have been generally truthful reports of most drivers’ activities.    Only a tiny minority of drivers turn in properly completed waybills.)

The earnings that are the motivation for the politicking we are witnessing are not the earnings of the drivers at all.    For there are criminal middlemen involved in deeper, serious graft.   These middlemen are the cab “brokers.”

For some years now, foreign drivers with medallions have been maneuvered by their own compatriots away from dealing directly with the cab companies, which they apparently don’t trust.    Instead, these drivers are promised higher rental fees for their medallions than honest companies can afford to pay.    The extra money is coming out of the pockets of the drivers who work for these “brokers,” all or most of them foreigners trying to keep their business out of view, so they are willing to pay illegally high fees.    Discussion of these fees usually suggests that the drivers, who work for “brokers” instead of cab companies, are paying as much as double the legally allowed fees.    Let us make a conservative estimate of the money these “brokers” are making.   If a “broker” has, say, only ten drivers working through him, and he were charging only $75 a day more than the legal limit, the broker would be making $547,500 per year… for doing absolutely nothing.    With many more medallions in his stable a “broker” can become a millionaire quickly – or he might, if his activities didn’t require various cash kickbacks, such as are known to be paid.

Getting at this particular graft is difficult for a normal observer, because these brokers are believed to be paying some of this money to the cab companies for use of their “color schemes.”    That’s right, most of the cab companies are benefitting from the illegally high “gate” fees that the drivers are paying.

This illegal market is being obscured by the present tactic of diverting attention to the extra fees the drivers are paying for credit cards, and to the “electronic waybills.”

There is a very real threat to public safety in these “broker” deals.    San Francisco law prohibits more than three levels of subleasing of a medallion.    But within the industry everybody who understands the situation knows that the drivers working for the “brokers” have to be regularly violating this regulation.    So the passengers of these drivers are being driven by people who are not answering to the same level of scrutiny to which the legitimate drivers are held.   

In other words, every day, many San Franciscans are being driven by cab drivers whose positions as drivers are illegal.    And much of the driver rage which the public witnesses is due to the unlawful disadvantages which some drivers suffer at the hands of the “brokers.”   These drivers feel they cannot speak about their real problem – even if they do realize it is a problem.   Often, apparently, they do not, and fully accept the discrepancy between the gate fees they pay and those paid by drivers who work directly for the companies.

In order to understand the drivers’ anger over the credit card fees, it is important to realize that some of the drivers who are acting out their anger are reacting to what they perceive as yet another “extra” fee that is not part of the black market sub-industry of the “brokers.”    These “brokers” are already charging so much that anything further seems utterly unreasonable to the drivers who are paying the illegally high fees.    At 3.5% or less the credit card fees would be reasonable fees, but to the drivers under the thumbs of the “brokers,” they seem like the straw that is breaking the camel’s back.   

The “brokers” appear to be adopting a tactic of admitting to their minions that SOME of the fees the drivers under their wing are paying are unfair – not the illegal gate fees of course, but the credit card fees.   So the “brokers” have a de facto spokesman – Mr. Tariq Mehmood.   

Mr. Mehmood’s politicking has the effect primarily of diverting attention – including that of the drivers - away from the “brokers.”    That’s another reason why he will urge his minions to “strike” even if their demands are met.   

Mr. Mehmood wants more than he is saying he wants.    He wants the City to allow the “brokers” of whom he is the de facto representative to continue their activities.    He wants the MTA Taxi Division to use his usurious banker friends to loan money to cab drivers in the experimental “medallion sales” program.    And, using personal action or demonstrations, he will shout down all opposition using sheer forcefulness, if he can muster it.

************

ELECTRONIC “WAYBILLS”

Obstruction of “electronic waybills” is the single most corrosive factor in the present situation of the San Francisco taxi industry.   

Without the proper industry studies that “electronic waybills” would encourage, it is unlikely that the politicians, or the public, will ever see proof that the cab issuance they are calling for is only creating a huge unregulated black market and is not solving perceived service problems.

For many years, since no later than Former Mayor Willie Brown’s policy of issuing medallions in the 1990s, the only way anybody has been able to imagine how to solve apparent service problems has been to issue more medallions.    Though it is only intuitive if you forget that the nature of the product we are discussing is a mobile one, the simplistic notion that “more cabs means greater availability of cabs” seemed irrefutable.    Some MTA Board members, including Mr. Bruce Oka and Mr. Malcolm Heinecke, preach this as a doctrine.    Mr. Oka has been so insistent upon this that he makes special “statesman’s” appearances at Taxi Advisory Council meetings to insist on it.   On this point he actually speaks to the cab industry as though he is teaching them.   He seems still to be unaware how his remarks insult the intelligence of the cab professionals he addresses.

In no case does issuing more medallions does cause the cabs to be available to customers.    Dispatch is needed to complete an order.    This issue is discussed in the Position Paper on Open Taxi Access.   In July 1991 there were 811 cabs in San Francisco, and San Francisco’s population, at the time about 750,000 people, thought that more cabs were needed.    Now there are almost 1600 cabs, and the population is only up about 50,000 people, yet the service problems prevail, and no thought is given to looking elsewhere for an explanation.

A 200% increase in cabs has already been applied to a 7% increase in the population.   MORE CABS ARE NOT GOING TO SOLVE THE APPARENT SERVICE PROBLEM.

The cab companies have always urged the issuance of more cabs, because the companies can only make more money by having more cabs in their fleets.    The companies do not make more money by giving better service.    As indicated by the position of Bank America regarding credit cards, the companies’ customers are not even the passengers – the companies’ customers are the DRIVERS.    THE CAB COMPANIES ARE NOT FINANCIALLY MOTIVATED TO GIVE GOOD SERVICE – WITH OR WITHOUT MORE MEDALLIONS.   They are indeed MOTIVATED TO GIVE BAD SERVICE, in order to create the impression that more cabs are needed.

The politicians play into the cab companies’ wishes, and constantly urge more medallions.   The worst example of this is Mr. Malcolm Heinecke, of the SFMTA Board of directors.    He would prefer that the drivers never get a raise in pay until people stop complaining about not having enough cabs.    His policy is reminiscent of the joke “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”    In this case the joke might better be paraphrased “The poor pay and lack of benefits will continue until the public stops complaining.”    As if this will ever happen.

At present there is no way to do proper industry studies of the volume and nature of the orders the cab drivers drive in San Francisco.    Of course, the technology exists to monitor this business.

The SFMTA has quite reasonably proposed to use existing technology to track the orders that drivers drive.   

This tracking of orders would allow the industry studies that are needed to intelligently plan for medallion issuance.   

The driver faction led by Mr. Mehmood is interfering with the implementation of the collection of the information that would lead to these proper business studies of the San Francisco cab industry.    As indicated above, they want to say that this is an intrusion into their domain.     Their real reasons have already been discussed.

When it comes to the collection of information necessary for industry studies, Mr. Tariq Mehmood’s campaign against “electronic waybills” is counterproductive to the best interests of honest, taxpaying drivers.

************

MR. TARIQ MEHMOOD AND ELECTRONIC “WAYBILLS”

Let us look directly at how Mr. Mehmood objects to the “electronic waybills.”    For he does so in a self-contradictory way.

Mr. Mehmood doesn’t seem to realize that he has already gotten his way with regard to “electronic waybills.”    Yet he goes on fighting them.

During the recent Town Hall talks, he very often shouted in the most astonishingly rude manner at any mention of any idea that seemed to him to contradict what he wanted – even for a moment!    He literally would repeatedly interrupt Miss Hayashi without allowing her more than even two or three words.    It was the most uncivil and unreasoning “discussion,” without exception, that I personally have ever witnessed in my entire life.    Attempts to get him to stop shouting in a semi-private room would only lead to his more violent shouting.

By about the fifth or so of the six Town Hall Meetings, however, Miss Hayashi, having consistently exhibited the utmost in patience, managed to convey to Mr. Mehmood that the whole purpose of the Town Hall meetings had, all along, been to accommodate the wishes of the drivers, including himself.   

With, to be sure, a surprised look on his face Mr. Mehmood listened in a temporarily relatively tranquil way to Miss Hayashi as she collated the discussion onto a chalkboard, giving the present plan to refrain, in the electronic collection of information, from using any methods that would result in individual drivers’ activities from being monitored.    Thus, the present plan does not include any names, nor even any medallion numbers, indeed nothing that would result in drivers being tracked.     Pretty much only the individual shifts would be identifiable.    This would not apply to medallion holders, whose compliance with the driving obligation would be at issue.   (Mr. Mehmood did not have a problem with monitoring the medallion holders.    Apparently this 20% of his “unanimous” constituency doesn’t mind if the policies he recommends  contradict one another.)

Now, however, Mr. Mehmood is acting as though the “electronic waybills” are the same, detailed documents that were first proposed.   

Mr. Mehmood is calling a “strike” to still fight these emasculated “electronic waybills” that can have none of the effects that he perceives as so deleterious.

That’s right, Mr. Mehmood is calling for a “strike” as though he were completely ignorant of the fact that he has actually ACHIEVED the mitigation of the “electronic waybills” that he desires.

The data Mr. Mehmood would appear to have reason to permit is necessary for badly needed industry studies.    But with the data so emasculated the drivers will not be able to get away from the cumbersome act of writing their personal waybills, often double parked, often in traffic.

It certainly seems a pity that with technology available to mitigate this problem for drivers on the job, Mr. Mehmood shouts down its use.   

And naturally, most of the waybills that are written will continue to be completely fraudulent.

************

THE BAD RESULT OF NOT PAYING THE CREDIT CARD FEES

This is a very simple item and if it is not understood I suggest you just go over it a time or two until you wrap your head around it.    More words will not make this easy point easier to understand.

Very simply put, if the drivers pay the credit card fees, the companies will have one less cost excuse for raising their gate fees.   

Another way of saying this is, if the drivers pay the credit card fees, they have a bargaining chip during discussion of increases in gate fees.

…Of course, the drivers who work through “brokers” don’t have the same gates as the legitimate drivers.    These are the drivers I have tried to point out are being “sheltered” by the likes of Mr. Mehmood, and his de facto “broker” colleagues, from understanding that it is their own compatriots who are cheating them, and not the cab companies whom they don’t want to trust.

************

ON THE THREE PERCENT CREDIT CARD CHARGE

If the credit card charge does not include any fees for the back seat terminals, and no moneys are going to any parties other than the driver or the passenger, then I believe a 3% charge is not, under the circumstances unreasonable (see below at the words ALL THIS SAID, in this section).

However I have always maintained that it is unreasonable for government to require that a driver take credit cards.    What other business is forced BY LAW to give credit?    The requirement is one more way that cab drivers are treated with less dignity, indeed, with fewer rights, than any other businessmen.    The many ways that drivers are treated with scarcely a fraction of the dignity of other workers is of course playing into the hands of factions such as Mr. Mehmood’s.    It is easier for a bully to try take over a situation where injustice does indeed thrive.   

If any businessman wishes to refrain from the advantages of technology he should be allowed to do so.    If a businessman regards a credit card fee as a business expense he wishes to avoid, he should be at liberty to conduct his business accordingly.

ALL THIS SAID, it is absurd that it is not any agency of government, nor even any policy at large in any industry, that has resulted in the application of credit card fees to the drivers.    It is the result of the threats of one particular business.   The fact that it is Bank America and only Bank America that, by threatening a lawsuit, defines the cab drivers, rather than the cab passengers, as the “end users” in the transaction, is an outrage and another perfectly good example of how cab drivers are treated in everyday life and work as less than equal to other persons.

The passengers themselves believe - quite strongly! - that they are the customers in the situation.   For Bank America to dictate that the transaction defines the driver as the customer is completely counterintuitive to anyone’s perception of the situation.   

The situation is certainly one of the most blatant examples of big business running government, precisely the kind of abuse that even the most average American can understand when presented with no greater sophistication than is mustered by political commentators like George Carlin.    It takes no great analytical skill to detect that the situation is grossly unfair.

************

OPEN TAXI ACCESS

The gulf between the MTA and the drivers AND THE PASSENGERS is nowhere more evident than on the issue of “Open Taxi Access.”     This is a technological development in which an existing software program currently in use in about 50% of the cabs in San Francisco, a program called “Cabulous,” would be developed into the “Google Maps” of taxi dispatch.

Open Taxi Access would make it possible for every person with a handheld or home computer to find EVERY CAB IN SAN FRANCISCO.    No longer would most passengers be limited to “ordering” a cab and being left to the company’s agencies.   

Passengers would instead “summon” cabs that they themselves would locate on a map.   With the click of a mouse or the touch of an iPhone, passengers would touch an icon of a particular cab, nearest to them; they could then touch another icon and speak to the driver on the telephone.

Passengers would have the information about the state of their order that previously has been known only to the cab companies’ chief dispatchers.   If their driver took another order, they would know within seconds.   No longer would huge amounts of time be wasted between the stages in an order.   Backup cabs would quickly be found – and obviously they would not be limited to any particular cab company.   

Is there a problem with this?    Only that the very idea that “more cabs means better service” would forever be proven wrong.    This might be insignificant to government agencies who are willing to have been wrong – though there is little evidence that such persons as Bruce Oka and Malcolm Heinicke can imagine how wrong they are.   

The problem is that without the public bias in favor of the issuance of more cabs as the default solution to all service problems, the cab companies would reach a basic ceiling of profits, since the expansion of their fleets would not be believed to be a necessity.

The most damaging aspect of this for stubborn government and greedy profiteers is that it would involve the public’s achievement of a higher degree of understanding of their circumstances with relation to the cab industry.    The cab companies would have to find other means to raise their profits.    They would, in fact, have just as certain a ceiling to their earnings as the cab drivers have always had.

At present the SFMTA is engaging in what is arguably its most corrupt policy, namely the refusal to give back $410,000 of the $11,000,000 it has drawn off the cab drivers, and fund the completion of Open Taxi Access.    The public has no idea their empowerment through Open Taxi Access is even possible.   The public does not look for an answer to a question it does not know to ask.    In this way the SFMTA is being the facilitator of the cab companies, at the expense of the passengers and the drivers.

************

OVERT TACTICS, OR LACK OF THEM, AT THIS TIME

The general perception of the drivers is that the chief tactics used by the moneyed interests and politicians are covert – “backroom tactics.”     Certainly, common sense clearly indicates that the politicians are “doing meetings” that result in the drivers, as members of the public, being out-maneuvered continuously in a manner that violates the spirit of any imagined Sunshine conditions, even when it may not be immediately clear what specific laws are being broken.    The procedural situation resembles the business methods of people who constantly find ingenious ways to circumvent the law in ways that perhaps aren’t illegal… yet.   The content of their utterances and the succession of events around the declarations by Malcolm Heinecke and Scott Weiner make it clear there is a unanimity of opinion without reference to cab industry realities that is being derived through communication methods of whatever kind in which the public certainly does not participate.    To this day, former Mayor Willie Brown is mentioned as someone being consulted about matters – when his only admissible role as a consultant would have to be that of a lawyer.   

One of the problems facing the industry is the degree to which Brown appointees, and his appointee’s appointees, are making policy, and this has the very regrettable effect of perpetuating Brown’s colossal mistake of creating the policy of solving perceived service problems by always throwing “more cabs” at them, a “service solution” which the cab companies, and only the cab companies, benefit from.

Summarizing this last item, it is fair to say that the cab companies want above all for more cab medallions to always be allowed.   The only nuance in change to this long-standing policy is to encourage the sale of medallions as well.

With regard to the drivers methods it must be said that only the drivers grievances render their tactics plausible, and this is at best a limited type of virtue.    In my opinion admirable tactics are lacking on both sides of the issues.   Firstly, the SFMTA shows no willingness to let go of the policy most stubbornly articulated by Mr. Malcom Heinecke, that the drivers should not be allowed even a pay raise, let alone consideration of any other issues, until “service improves.”    This request is a blatant “infinite regress.”    As pointed out above, over the last twenty years a 200% increase in cabs has been allowed for a mere 7% increase in the population.     Yet this has not stopped the public from making the same complaints, and the same claims that more cabs are needed.    The public is acting like spoiled children, and the politicians are encouraging this.

The idea of waiting to improve cab drivers’ lives until “the people stop complaining” is so outrageous that I marvel that Mr. Heinecke can utter such pronouncements.    Can he really believe that the people will ever stop complaining – can he think this is has ever been likely in the course of human events?    If he thinks he can put forward notions such as he does, that the drivers ought not to get a pay raise unless HIS OWN RECEIVED AND IGNORANT IDEAS ABOUT CAB SERVICE are confirmed and met, then his estimation of the intelligence of his fellow citizens is obviously very low – though he would naturally deny this in words if confronted with the situation.    Any policy obstruction to reasonable progress that would be more intractable than Mr. Heinicke’s cannot be imagined.    For the worker it is truly like Pharaoh’s call to make bricks without straw.

So it seems a fact that the SFMTA’s tactics at this time clearly amount to a refusal to consider the drivers’ needs.    This is the necessary conclusion to be drawn from the fact that the MTA has taken all cab items off of its agendas and has cancelled public meetings or changed their meeting times to inconvenient times when few interested persons can attend meetings.    (This is a tactic the SFMTA Board has engaged for some while; from time to time its meetings are held an hour or more in advance of posted times, in obvious violation of the Sunshine Ordinance.    On one occasion I arrived in a timely manner only to find the Board was already in closed session, having started an hour early.)   It is most unfortunate that at the very time greater communication is needed the MTA chooses to allow itself to be perceived as unwilling to even speak with the 7,000 cab drivers and their various representatives.   

The enormity of the silencing, in a number of ways, of 7,000 voices is one of the fundamental motivators of the general dissent.

Looking next at the tactics the cab industry is taking, there is 1) the sharpest divide between company and driver interests that has existed in the 21 years I personally have been working full-time in the industry; and there is 2) a regrettable lack of driver awareness of their genuine circumstances.    It must also be pointed out that 3) some drivers, especially Mr. Mehmood’s faction, are ruining such efforts as the SFMTA has passively (and insufficiently) made through Miss Hayashi’s office, and her astonishing patience is treated by Mr. Mehmood’s faction as somehow within their right to abuse.    (The observation that SFMTA efforts are insufficient should not be thought to result from any lack of effort from Miss Hayashi’s office.   While there have been some errors there, such as the requirement that back seat terminals be installed for companies to qualify for the credit card fee waiver, they are small compared with the enormity of the injustice of the SFMTA policies, such as the tacit allowance of the cab companies to default on health insurance required by law, or medallion sales from which the SFMTA itself benefits financially.)

Treating first of item 1) in the previous paragraph, the divide between companies and drivers is sharpened by, firstly, their willingness to break the law requiring they provide health insurance.    Government complicity in this is automatically evident with the City’s failure to enforce the law.    A clearer instance of government complicity with big business could hardly be imagined.    It is typical that the City which prides itself on providing health insurance for its food service workers denies it to its cab drivers.    Secondly, the companies generally are lobbying on favor of the sale of medallions, and this would be a complete betrayal of, cumulatively, CENTURIES of human waiting on the medallion list.    The cavalier way SFMTA Board members, especially Mr. Oka, have dismissed the significance of the List is breathtaking in its inhumanity, and is yet another way government is in corrupt complicity with big business.   

Item 2) above, the lack of driver awareness in their own lot, is a serious impediment to achieving a civil solution to present impasses.    The drivers have generally fastened on only those aspects of the SFMTA mismanagement that they can understand in terms of their own immediate earnings, namely the credit card charges that they are now paying which they previous did not pay.    But the possibility of their jobs evaporating under the recasting of the entire industry along the medallion sales New York City business model is something they are dangerously unaware of.    The problem of their jobs being available to them only if they personally pay astonishing fees for them is one that affects few drivers now – but would affect more drivers if it were permitted to continue.    Generally, the majority of demonstrating drivers do not know anything like the entire picture.

With regard to item 3) above, it is regrettable that such minimal effort the SFMTA has allowed through Miss Hayshi’s office is treated with such scorn by so many of Mr. Mehmood’s faction.  

The only thing that can be positively claimed about Miss Hayashi’s efforts is that with the TAC and the Town Hall Meetings she has diffused considerable heat away from the SFMTA.    As bad as the demonstrations may seem, the way key individuals have spoken at SFMTA Board meetings, particularly Mr. Mehmood, have been downright courteous compared with the monstrous behavior that was exhibited in most of the recent Town Hall meetings.    No Board member who did not attend the Town Hall meetings has any idea the kind of hostility with which Miss Hayashi was confronted.

It might therefore seem that the SFMTA has been wise, from its own point of view, to call these Town Hall meetings.    However there is considerable and very reasonable doubt, in fact cynicism, about the efficacy of these meetings, and when, immediately after the meetings, Miss Hayashi presented NOT the findings of the Town Hall meetings, but an entirely different proposal to the TAC, driver cynicism and outrage understandably reached a new high.    When asked directly at the TAC why her presentation did not resemble the finding of the Town Hall meetings, Miss Hayashi could only say “My bosses want [this].”    The Board is told what it wants to hear.    In this respect the Board is little different in unreflective selfishness from its most vocal adversary, Mr. Tariq Mehmood.  

Only the fact that nothing has been done since then might speak in favor of SFMTA policy – but when inaction is the most a worker gets, his frustration, quite reasonably, only grows.

Summarizing the tactics of the three major players, being the SFMTA, the companies, and the drivers, only the latter group has yet demonstrated any virtue at compromise.    The compromise the drivers have demonstrated has not been with the City or with the companies, but with each other, when, despite the fact that the drivers remain a quite mutually adversarial group of people, scarcely able to agree about anything, they have nevertheless been able to agree that they have issues with the obviously greedy companies and the obviously corrupt and ignorant politicians.

In short, SFMTA mismanagement and company money-grabbing have united the drivers when their own perspicacity and civility could not.

************

THE TAXI ADVISORY COUNCIL

This organization is the body which the SFMTA has allowed Miss Hayashi’s office to organize to advise it, the SFMTA, on cab industry matters.    There are many problems with this group, which remains nevertheless the only chance that some drivers have of learning how things are being discussed.    A crucial problem with these discussions is that they are not apparently being considered at this time by the SFMTA Board.    When the Board received the news that the cab companies are not interested in Mr. Heinecke’s pet project, namely the utterly impractical “peak time medallions,” the Board took all cab items off of its agenda.    It is possible to draw the conclusion that it is Mr. Heinecke himself who is telling Miss Hayashi what to recommend to the Board despite contrary finding sat Town Hall meetings, and Mr. Heinecke himself who is obstructing discussion of cab related issues at Board meetings.   So, while drivers and interested members of the public may find out how certain issues are approached by the industry, this information does not necessarily indicate what action may be taken.    Therefore the TAC is yet another source of potential frustration and cynicism for many, probably most, drivers.

The TAC’s first major task was to evaluate the Medallion Sales Program.    However, through obstruction within its membership, the TAC regularly failed to consider the agenda item reagarding preparation of the Report on that program, and rather than evaluate the program, the TAC has been found in violation of Sunshine Ordinance regulations for bypassing discussion of any items not in the interest of active APPROVAL of the Medallion Sales Program.    The laws regarding which the TAC was found in violation are San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance Articles 67.7, 67.21E, and State of California Brown Act Section 2 Article 54954.2.

Immediately when these findings were presented to the TAC, rather than consider how to comply with the law, attempts were made at the Council to put the findings in doubt, suggesting that they were made only by “default” (since no TAC members were there at the time the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force made its decision) rather than on “the merits of the case.”    So the perpetrators of the violation of law are already trying to mitigate the chances that a proper re-evaluation of the relevant Report will be made.    The Sunshine Ordinance Task Force’s finding means that the motions to approve the Medallion Sales Program without discussion of related AND STATED issues are off the table.    Time will tell whether proper consideration of this fact will bring about proper discussion.

The TAC Sunshine violation was clearly of improper, specifically, inadequate, handling of the agenda.    The agenda called for discussion of the Report they were supposed to prepare for the TAC.    However for the three meetings during which Dan Hines and Carl Macmurdo staged their filibuster against proper discussion of the agenda, to a total time estimated by all observers at between 5.5. and 6 hours, the only discussion was about whether to allow a motion in favor of the Medallion sales Program.   

Here is a direct quote from the minutes of one of these meetings:

“Board discussed Waiting List/Driver Seniority System topics on handout.”    (Author’s Note: TOPICS ONLY were presented, and have NOT yet, or ever, been discussed.)

“Mr. Macmurdo would like to propose a motion to give the MTA preliminary recommendation to continue medallion sales whenever the medallion sales pilot program concludes.”

In other words, as soon as the Council (here erroneously called “Board”) attempted to discuss the elements of the Report, Mr. Macmurdo put a halt to this discussion by calling for A MOTION THAT SHOULD ONLY HAVE BEEN CALLED IN CONCLUSION, IF AT ALL, TO THE REPORT.   

The Council has for most of its existence been heavily skewed in favor of company interests.    Recently Miss Hayashi restructured the Council to better reflect the interests of the United Taxicab Workers and the drivers generally.    The Hines/Macmurdo faction openly spoke of this change as a “regrettable” lack of “industry unity” and called for discussion of more seats, all of which would tend to vote in their favor.    The meaning of this astonishingly lowbrow statement is “Industry unity is shown if our preferences are followed, and industry unity is not met if our preferences are not followed.”    This is one of the many times within the situation at large when incredible selfishness of perspective results in such amazingly narrow-minded statements that an embarrassingly low intelligence is revealed.    The statements of Mr. Oka and Mr. Heinecke have already been remarked upon.

In temporary conclusion of this part of this paper I think it is safe to generalize that there is indeed too little unity of vision on the TAC – the lack of unity however is about whether to use ethical, even legal, methods to achieve democratic political process.   

************

A THREE-TIERED CAB DRIVER CAREER MODEL

Since the purpose of this Position Paper is to facilitate discussion of cab driver interests in concert with Muni Driver Union interests it seems relevant to put forward a few thoughts about how cab drivers’ interests may be viewed, with an eye to addressing their needs.

For many centuries, since the Middle Ages, many labor and trade unions have been structured in a tri-level manner, and this three-tiered structure could be helpful when examining the interests and the reasonable expectation of cab drivers.    The traditional terms for these three levels of worker are of course Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master.    I would like to suggest these be thought of in the following way.

Apprentices could be those drivers with less than a certain amount of experience.    Barry Korengold, President of the SF Cab Drivers Association, has suggested a five-year period as the chief definition of an Apprentice.

Journeymen could be those drivers who have a higher amount of experience but do not have a medallion.  

It is evident that Masters should be drivers who have their own medallions.    Traditionally, in many labor guilds, Masters had a “workshop” which employed some other workers, doing the same activity the Master did.    This is the case with medallion holding drivers, who create fourteen shifts of work per week, but who only themselves work three or more of these shifts.  

This three-level structure would allow all drivers to think in terms of all other WORKING drivers as being certainly NOT management.    With the current vague definitions, some workers are under the mistaken impression that drivers with medallions are in league with the companies.  

However, naturally, drivers with medallions only collect rents for their medallions, and do not participate in the making of any company policy, except through the workings of the market.    The limitation of Medallion Holders’ influence to direct market factors makes them decidedly within the purview of Labor, which bargains in the market in various ways for higher wages.    Since City law (at this time through the policies of Mr. Malcolm Heinecke) prohibits higher wages proper, the medallion system of licensing allows a salutary reward for the longest enduring, most experienced - and most patient – workers.

Drivers in each higher level of the labor pyramid may reasonably be called upon to contribute to the welfare of the drivers beneath them; certainly, drivers with medallions should be expected to help the lower two orders with payments for medical insurance.    Perhaps other benefits could be negotiated for the first two orders of workers.   But in no instance should the Masters be expected to compensate as though they are investors of capital, which they certainly are not.

Another example of the thought that has been offered along these lines is Mr. Korengold’s suggestion that beginning drivers, whom I am here calling Apprentices, might contribute to their own welfare in a fund that would not become available to them unless they remain in the industry for five years.    When Mr. Korengold first presented this idea I resisted this suggestion.    After discussion with Mr. Korengold I find myself in agreement with him that this sort of payment would work well with the three-tiered Labor structure.

************

MR. TARIQ MEHMOOD

A noticeable number of cab drivers are responding to the suggestions of a driver named Mr. Tariq Mehmood, who presently is claiming full credit for the “strikes” (they are actually “demonstrations”) that have been held three times at City Hall, always on the particular Tuesdays that the SFMTA Board is scheduled to meet.   

Mr. Mehmood usually makes the absurd claim that he speaks for absolutely every driver in San Francisco.    On many occasions he has said quite forcefully – by which I mean, quite loudly - that he speaks for all 7,000 drivers, unanimously, without exception.    He shouts down any driver who questions this claim.    (On a few occasions he has allowed in a low voice that there might be a few drivers who don’t go along with him.    Mr. Mehmood seems not to notice that he is contradicting himself.)    Mr. Mehmood’s methods include considerable and very verbally violent personal attacks on persons he doesn’t like, especially on Christiane Hayashi, Ed Healy, and myself.   He feels an undeserved proprietary status whenever he speaks at meetings: he believes his accusations may be made using innuendo without content, and when called on this tactic, he raises his voice and speaks beside the point.   If called to account more than once, he raises his voice yet further, and refuses to stop talking until it pleases him to do so.    Most people would describe him as a “loose canon,” but if you observed his behavior in person you would think him more of a bully with the temperament of a colicky baby.

Mr. Mehmood has called for a “24-Hour Strike” for early August and is saying this strike will be carried out even if his demands ARE met.   These demands appear to include that 1) newly levied credit card fees shall be removed and 2) the so-called “electronic waybills” shall not be instituted.

Of course it makes no sense for anyone to carry out a strike even if their demands ARE met.    But Mr. Mehmood doesn’t mean what he’s saying.    His real demand is, and always has been, to somehow cause Taxi Director Christiane Hayashi to get fired from her job at the MTA.

Mehmood wants Hayashi fired because she turned his banker friends down when he proposed them as lenders for the Medallion Sales Program.   Only then did he turn from making politick “suggestions” to leading a vicious witch hunt against Miss Hayashi, who had merely pointed out that Mr. Mehmood’s friends would not allow early payment on any loans they made.   

Mehmood’s behavior only makes sense in this light.   He wants to get rid of Hayashi, at the very least as a revenge for her decision not to do business with his friends, and perhaps because he thinks if she is gone, the next Taxi Director will go along with his buddies’ usurious banking methods.

************

c Copyright 2011 by Christopher Fulkerson. Posted September 3, 2011.

HOME

PRINCIPAL WORKS

LISTING BY NOMENCLATURE