WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

Arlington Cab Drivers Complain Of Working Conditions

Over 100 cab drivers demanded a meeting with an Arlington County official late last week to complain about working conditions.
WAMU/Martin Di Caro
Over 100 cab drivers demanded a meeting with an Arlington County official late last week to complain about working conditions.

Arlington taxi drivers who emerged from a one-hour, closed-door meeting with the chairman of the county board on Wednesday called the session “useless” after expressing their complaints to chairman Walter Tejada about working conditions.

More than 100 taxi drivers demanded the meeting last Friday when they entered the county government building and refused to leave after cabbie Abdellah Ouazzani was fired by the Yellow Cab Company in Arlington. Ouazzani claims he was fired for speaking out at a September protest in front of local TV cameras.

“They have the power to do whatever they want to do,” Ouazzani said.

Yellow Cab Co. vice president Charlie King denies the allegation, saying the driver was terminated for his “individual conduct.” King declined to comment further.

Following the Wednesday meeting drivers briefly rallied in a show of unity inside the government building’s lobby, chanting, “I am a taxi driver! And I am somebody!” They presented chairman Tejada a list of complaints about Arlington’s heavily regulated taxi industry of seven licensed companies: the companies charge drivers extortionate rental fees while preventing them from switching companies through stringent legislation, and drivers say they can be fired for any offense without recourse.

“We didn't get anything. We went in with a lot of questions and came out with nothing,” said Aziz Boughaba, who said he quit driving cabs because of “abuse.”

In an interview with WAMU 88.5, board chairman Tejada said the meeting was productive but county legislators have limited authority to help the drivers. He promised to look into their complaints.

“We feel a lot was accomplished because, among other things, we wanted to hear out and have the drivers express their concerns and make sure their elected officials are listening to them,” Tejada. “We don't have the authority to regulate labor practices in cab companies, so there are some limitations we have as a county.”

Tejada said the county Human Rights Office will document Ouazzani’s claim that could possibly lead to an investigation.

“They are alleging the companies are mistreating them. They allege poor working conditions. One of the things I asked them was what does that mean? Poor working conditions, we need to understand what that means and if there is anything within our authority that can be addressed, we will,” he said.

Workers’ rights activists who are helping organize the cabbies’ efforts said the county board is hiding behind the county code instead of actively changing it to help drivers.

“The Arlington County Board creates the taxi code for the country. There are some limitations on what they can and cannot do, but certainly they can regulate how drivers are treated and passengers are treated. That is part of due process,” said Jon Liss, an activist with Tenants and Workers United.

Taxi drivers may change companies in Arlington, as long as there are available slots. Each cab company has a limited number of licensed vehicles it may employ. For instance, Yellow Cab Company may have 100 vehicles on the road. If all 100 vehicles are occupied, a job-seeking driver would have to wait for a cabbie to quit, get fired, or retire before being able to apply for a job at Yellow Cab.

Liss said the movement of taxi drivers from one company to another is an important issue, but is secondary to the basic rights and protections drivers are seeking.

NPR

Barbershop: UofL Basketball Ban, Football Concussions And The NFL Women's Summit

ESPN contributor Kevin Blackistone, Bloomberg View's Kavitha Davidson and The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery talk about the UofL basketball team, public opinion of the NFL, and women in sports.
NPR

After Introducing Changes, Keurig Sales Continue To Fall

Despite America's high coffee consumption, Keurig reported disappointing sales this week. Even during its popular holiday selling period, the numbers haven't perked up in recent years.
NPR

On The Clock: Rubio Gets The Most Talking Time In Tonight's Debate

It was the last debate before the New Hampshire primary and Donald Trump was back onstage. Which GOP candidate ended up with the most talking time?
NPR

How Limited Internet Access Can Subtract From Kids' Education

Smartphones are often credited with helping bridge the "digital divide" between people who do and don't have Internet access at home. But is mobile Internet enough for a family with a kid in school?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.