Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Town Hall Meetings: Extremes - UTW

I'm going to start talking about plans by looking at the people least likely to compromise and work toward a consensus.

Mark Gruberg (picture) of the UTW thinks that Proposition K should not be changed. All drivers should be put on The List for a medallion by seniority and, when the medallion holder can no longer drive, he or she should give up the medallion without compensation.

Instead, a retirement plan for all drivers should be funded by charging medallion holders $300 per month. A previous plan of Gruberg's called for financing medical care for cab drivers by charging medallion holders $1,000 a month. Perhaps Gurberg's greatest triumph has been a successful ADA suit which would take medallions away from people too old or sick to drive a cab. The decision is being challenged at a higher court.

There is no doubt that Mark sincerely wants to help the average driver but it has long seemed to me that he is so fixated by his animosity toward medallion holders that it's addled his judgement. Certainly, many of his ideas and actions are illogical.
  • He claims that he wants to help the average driver get a medallion.
  • Yet the moment they get the medallion Gruberg wants to take away 15% to 50% of their income and control almost every move they make.
  • He claims to be working for the benefit of all drivers, yet he has fought tooth and nail to take any sense of security away from medallion holding drivers as they get older.
He's so fixated on punishing medallion holders that he doesn't even consider other ways to raise money for driver retirement.

Every third or fourth Town Hall meeting, Gruberg gives a speech about how nobody is mentioning "the elephant in the room" which according to him is the "fact" that the medallion holders, who have spent 15 years working and following rules, have gotten their medallions for "free."

Mark can't see why these medallion holders should gain anything from taxi industry reform. Instead, they should be made pay for the benefits of everyone else.

The companies have far more money than the medallion holders and engage in various illegal practices, including extorting $8 million to $10 million a year in tips from the drivers Gruberg claims to represent. But he doesn't even mention the companies as a possible source of income for his schemes.

The fact that some of these companies are run by people who have inherited their medallions and/or positions doesn't faze him either. Apparently it's okay to get something for "free" as long as you don't spend 15 years working for it.

Some of Gruberg's actions would take (or already have taken) money away from the non-medallion drivers:
  • In 2004 or 2005, the UTW stopped a meter increase from going through so that they could file a suit for back gates thus costing working drivers thousands of dollars.
  • His latest idea is that medallion holders should drive a minimum of 1500 hours per year which would mean that there would be fewer good shifts available for regular drivers.
Gruberg keeps pointing to the same imaginary elephant over and over again and doesn't seem willing to compromise at all. If anything, as the Town Hall meeting progress, he appears more and more and more fixated on shafting medallion holders.

It would be interesting to see if Mark would back a plan that would help the average driver if it didn't somehow stick it to the medallion holders as well. Would "win-win" win with him?

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