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IWW Victory for Taxi Drivers at LA Airport

by Worker Freedom Sunday, Aug. 20, 2006 at 5:57 PM

By Ernesto Nevarez, Port of Aztlan, - Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education, Volume 19 Number 4, July-August 2006

IWW Victory for Taxi...
209958.jpg, image/jpeg, 300x193

The City of Los Angeles has issued 9 Franchise Contracts to taxi companies which allow them to work LAX. These companies have permission to use about 3,000 drivers. Most are poor immigrants from a variety of countries, such as Iran, Russia, Congo, Pakistan, etc. The companies have banded together and have invented a non-standard workplace with characteristics that have been institutionalized and accepted as the "standard" and which the workers have fatalistically believed was their reality. That was until the Nick Search Decision!

Most of these companies vary in legal entity with the standard being a non-profit membership corporation made up of members who own the vehicles.The first thought was that since the taxi company was made up of taxi owners, no one would be employees. This thought was erroneous. Even in small partnerships, if you do work for the partnership, you are an employee.

You can be a limited partner and only have a passive participation to safeguard an economic investment but if you do work, you are still an employee. Eventually the "owners" allowed for multiple cab ownership and the standard is now limiting owners to 5 cabs maximum. Well, u can just imagine what happened to the immigrant work force of drivers. They were all denied their employment rights and have been treated as independent contractors and almost none receive even a 1099 and none are known to receive a w-2 form.

An original member of the Waterfront Rail Truckers Union of 1987, who has become a taxi driver over the last 15 years, was recently released from a job at a taxi company. He requested wage credits for all of last year during which time he worked at ITOA, Independent Taxi Owners' Association, driving a cab belonging to the CEO. The company claimed that he was an independent contractor, and the worker strongly insisted that he was an employee. Just last week, he received word that his employment status was upheld, and has received some nice size unemployment benefit checks!

Political fall-out: All of the "owners" are in denial and the LATDA is having an emergency meeting. The driver and his friends from the competing LATDO are having their meeting Sunday night to celebrate and plan on how to promote the victory and go after the rest of the companies. Their mobilizers are IWW members with dual membership and supporters. ONE single unemployed, homeless, living out of a shelter worker, Vietnam Veteran, with NOTHING, nothing at all except his pride, his IWW shirt, and a desire for justice, has just FUCKED the whole damn cab industry! The competing group, the LATDA, with all of their lawyers, have failed to accomplish what this one Wobbly worker has done.

There are many "do-gooders" that come to the non-standard work places, the underground economy, and attempt to find a solution within the parameters of the non-standard workplace. The true solution will come from the workers themselves. The industry and government regulators "allowed" the workplaces to become nonstandard with the understanding that the workers are complacent and that the "do-gooders" will confine themselves to the status quo. Never did anyone expect the workers to educate themselves and to use the "non-standard" characteristics to destroy the same industry.

The "leader" of the LATDO, Mike, has been put in jail at least three times this year for organizing at the LAX holding yard. Everyone else and their mother are allowed on the holding yard except for him. Yes, we know about the NLRA but it is part of a dream in a different world and not ours. This time brother Mike will not stand outside the holding yard by himself, but will include the rest of his brothers that are organizing at the airport and at the harbor.

The purpose of the non-standard workplace is to deny the workers their rights and to keep out legitimate competition. The only recourse for the workers is to create economic chaos and anarchy. After the war, when the dust settles, then there can be a collective agreement. Congratulations to our Wobbly brothers and sisters at the Airport!
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