Sickout at the Taxicab Commission?

December 7, 2012

Spike in limo license applications has stressed employees, commissioner says. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

The D.C. Taxicab Commission issued an unusual news release today indicating that the agency’s driver services operations had limited “operational capability” due to “widespread illness that has caused significant staff absences.”

That meant that taxi and limo drivers hoping to apply for or renew licenses won’t be able to do so today. They’re being encouraged to drop off their application materials for processing next week.

But, according to one commissioner, today’s happenings aren’t an epidemic, but a job action by disgruntled employees against agency management.

“Some of the employees were not satisfied with the way things we’re working,” said Anthony Muhammad, a commissioner since June. “They’re under constant pressures to produce, produce, produce.”

Since August, Muhammad said, the licensing employees have been slammed after the commission moved to open up new limo applications for the first time. They’ve sought more workers and space, he added, and not gotten them even as the commission has hired new executive-level employees in the meantime.

But Ron Linton, the commission’s chairman, rejects Muhammad’s characterization out of hand. The suggestion of a job action, he said, is “news to me.”

“One of them has a grandmother that’s dying. The other has a swollen jaw. Another’s sick. And the fourth one was coming down with something yesterday,” he said. “I don’t think Muhammad knows what he’s talking about.”

Linton said he’s shifted other staffers around to take applications, which will be processed as soon as possible. Muhammad said he saw about 70 drivers in line early this afternoon.

In other taxi-related news, Mayor Vincent C. Gray will join Linton Monday to unveil new potential uniform color schemes for D.C. taxicabs. Four model cars will be placed in the Verizon Center concourse for public viewing ahead of a commission vote expected sometime next year.

The uniform color schemes were mandated in a reform bill passed by the D.C. Council in July.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · December 7, 2012