D.C.’s cab drivers are joining the Teamsters

October 24, 2013
A rendering of the new color scheme that D.C. Taxicabs will be required to adopt. (Courtesy of the D.C. Taxicab Commission)
A rendering of the new color scheme that D.C. Taxicabs will be required to adopt. (Courtesy of the D.C. Taxicab Commission)

The District’s cab drivers are teaming up with the Teamsters.

Representatives from the Teamsters Union announced Thursday the formation of the D.C. Taxi Drivers Association. The group will be affiliated with Teamsters Local 922. The first meeting of the new group is scheduled for Oct. 29.

“For far too long, taxi drivers in Washington, D.C., have not had a strong voice to provide input about regulations and policies that affect their livelihoods,” said Ferline Buie, President of Teamsters Local 922 in a written statement. “Their new association with Teamsters Local 922 will give them the strong voice they need and deserve.”

Union officials said drivers approached the Teamsters with hopes of organizing.

“This is about fairness for more than 6,000 drivers and their families, and it’s about improving the taxi cab service in our nation’s capital,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa.

Passengers have long complained that the city’s taxi fleet is unreliable and lacks some of the modern conveniences of other big city taxi fleets, like the ability to pay with credit cards. In response, District officials passed new rules to overhaul the system and make it more competitive with a bevy of new car services, such as Uber.

But the overhaul has left many drivers frustrated and concerned about whether they can afford the new upgrades.

Hoffa said drivers do not oppose new regulations, which include requirements that all cabs accept credit cards, install new dome lights and adopt a new red and gray color scheme for their vehicles. Rather, they want more time to make the changes.

According to the Teamsters, the average D.C. cab driver makes $25,000 to $30,000 a year and spends as much as $40 a day on fuel and $100 or more a month for auto insurance.

How many cab drivers will be part of the association remains to be seen. Teamsters spokeswoman Leigh Strope said more than a  thousand have signed up to join and they expect several hundred to attend next week’s meeting.

In D.C. — and in other cities — cab drivers tend to be notoriously independent and past efforts to unify them have proved difficult.

D.C. drivers would not be the first to organize. In 2012, more than 500 taxi drivers in Seattle formed the Western Washington Taxicab Operators Association.

This post has been updated.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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Lori Aratani · October 24, 2013