Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=107557
Story Retrieval Date: 6/19/2013 8:59:50 AM CST
A wintry afternoon in downtown Chicago suddenly heated up when leaders of the United Taxi Drivers Council calling for a strike Sunday were drowned out by blaring horns of drivers opposing a strike.
The Council, which came on the scene early this year, claims 300 members and the written support of 3,000 of the 6,000-plus licensed drivers in Chicago.
The Council's leaders were gathered on the corner of Randolph and Clark to highlight what they said were tough living conditions and their desire for increased pay.
They announced to reporters and TV cameras that they would embark on a 24-hour strike on Sunday to press their demands for a 16 percent permanent fare increase and a restoration of meter-and-a-half rates to Skokie, Burbank, Elk Grove Village and other suburbs.
But opponents honked and their cab windows displayed signs that said “Strike support = zero” and “Stop Senseless Strike."
Citing increased hardships for their families and themselves, the strike planners said they had no alternative.
They contended that they have been trying to avert the strike by working with the city but have been rebuffed by Consumer Services Commissioner Norma Reyes.
“We petitioned the city to meet in October,” said Peter Enger, secretary of the council. “They had 60 days to schedule a hearing and they haven’t scheduled it.” While the 60 days ends in early December, Enger said, they can't wait.
The strike is being called at a time when consumers will begin their Christmas shopping. Enger said the Council had reached out to some of the businesses that may be affected the most by a strike.
“They are hurting drivers and they are hurting the industry,” Commissioner Reyes responded. “They are driving their customers away.”
She also said that her staff meets with the UTCC every week. Enger said while the UTCC meets with a representative of the commissioner, they would prefer to meet with her directly as she's the one who ultimately makes the recommendations for a fare increase.
The Council also wants an investigation of “illegal leasing practices” and a “restoration of the new medallions by the city.”
Melissa Callahan was one of the strike opponents. “It doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “It’s all about a power play and gaining credibility, it’s not about the real issues.”
The strike organizers got some support from the Rainbow Push Coalition. The Rev. Gregory Livingston, chief of field operations for the organization, said he came to the rally to stand shoulder to shoulder with the cab drivers. In his view, the cab drivers are being treated unfairly as they're earning below minimum wage.
“They are out here driving under various conditions, under various stresses and their families need the same things that everybody else’s family needs,” Livingston said.
“There is no need for us to undercut the taxi drivers just because we want a cheap ride,” he added.