Taxi Drivers Circle City Hall Asking for End to "Franchise Slavery"
Cab drivers rally at City Hall, protesting DOT's taxi rules, which they feel are weighted toward the companies and not the drivers.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — Carrying signs that spoke of "franchise slavery" and "DOT abuses," taxi drivers and supporters took to City Hall this morning to protest what they view as broken promises by city officials and the office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The sound of honking car horns enveloped the building as roughly 100 taxis circled in a parade of yellow and green.
In a letter, the Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance (LATWA) called on the Mayor to rescind a recently awarded contract and hold public hearings on taxicab regulations.
At issue is the Department of Transportation's recent decision to award the contract for a $250,000 taxicab regulation study to Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.
LATWA presented multiple documents this morning in which the city had promised to hold hearings before awarding the contract. The RFP document itself had said that recommendations would be presented to the Board of Taxicab Commissioners before contract talks were initiated, but a May report from LADOT head Rita Robinson said that she had "approved the selection of [Nelson/Nygaard] and have instructed my staff to proceed with the development of a contract."
Cab drivers protest Nelson/Nygaard's choice because of the firm's involvement in a similar study in 2000 that set up the city's current regulations. LATWA calls the current system "franchise slavery," and says that fees charged by taxi companies to the drivers leave them working lengthy weeks before they earn any money for themselves. Taxi companies control the "medallions" that a cab must have in order to legally operate, so drivers are unable to work for themselves.