San Francisco taxi drivers last week voted to form the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance (SFTWA) and affiliate with the National Taxi Workers Alliance (NTWA). They are the second group of taxi workers in recent weeks to join with NTWA following the Montgomery County (Md.) Professional Drivers Union’s affiliation.
Beth Powder, a driver for DeSoto Cab. Co., told the San Francisco Examiner:
Cabdrivers are very independent people, and that's one of the beauties of this industry—that you have a diverse group of people who bring all these different elements to the table. Unfortunately, what it translates to for everybody else is that we can't get together and find consensus. But we've done just that.
NTWA President Bhairavi Desai said:
San Francisco used to have progressive working conditions, in that every driver could earn a medallion and it was a very progressive model. But in the last 10 years, San Francisco has been faced with very bitter attacks, with [rideshares] being the latest of the attacks.
The 150 drivers who voted unanimously to form the SFTWA also pledged to mobilize to bring more drivers into the union.
San Francisco taxi workers were unionized before World War II, but by the late 1970s unions had faded. Mark Gruberg, 72, a taxi driver for 30 years who is still driving, told the Examiner:
There's a new breath of life in unionism. And we in San Francisco are going to be part and parcel of that.
In a post on NTWA’s Facebook page about the San Francisco action, Javaid Tariq comments, “Taxi drivers are united all over the USA.”