Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Strike! Or the Fine Art of Shooting Oneself in the Foot

"There was no one else but Tariq who did almost everything except that we all joined him and came along to sing national anthem. Everyone was left with no choice but to follow his leadership. It became scary for leaders that if they do not follow they will be left alone. I guess one of the most largest strike in this town is coming soon. The one you have seen it was the preview."
                     Anonymous Tariq Mehmood Disciple

I received this the day after the June 28th "strike." That is to say that Tariq Mehmood was already planning the August 2nd strike before the last one. Just like he'd planned the last one before the one before; or, was it before the one before that?

And, his followers and many admirers like medallion holder Brad Newsham are enthused about this coming strike. They talk about "keeping the momentum going" like it's a football game. They seem to think that if they honk and holler long and loud and often enough the world will give them what they want - whatever that is. They act, in fact, as if the rest of the world doesn't  exist - a common miscalculation among groups that spend too much time talking to each other and not enough time talking to anybody else.

 The World as It Relates to Taxis

Consists of San Francisco officials (Mayor Ed Lee, SFMTA Board, Board of Supervisors) and the public. Would it be wrong to speculate about what they want?
  • The Mayor - wants more cabs and better service.
  • The MTA Board - wants more cabs, better service, lots of our money and a board meeting with no cab drivers in attendance.
  • The Board of Supervisors - wants a lot more cabs, a lot better service and don't want to give cab drivers a raise until these things come to pass. 
  • The Public wants better service, more cabs and more taxis that will accept credit cards.
Protests vs Strikes; or Shooting Oneself in the Foot: Part 1.

A protest is a way to tell the government and/or the public about injustices done and policies that should be changed. 

A strike is a way to inconvenience, to intimidate, to punish the government/public for not making those changes.

The public in this country, in this city anyway, tends to cut protesters a lot of slack. People don't mind a little inconvenience. Everyone has the right to complain. It's the American way. But, if the protests go on too often or too long, if the inconvenience grows, the public become annoyed.

From conversations with my riding public on the effects of the the recent taxi protests have exactly followed this path of regress.

  • After the first protest, everybody was smiles and understanding. They were on my side.
  • With protest two, they were concerned and confused. What was this about again?
  • With the protests that called itself a "strike,"it was like, "I just wanna go home."
What the threatened "24 Hour Strike" really threatens to do is alienate the public and turn them completely against us.

Shooting Oneself in the Foot: Part 2.

Brad Newsham wants the SFMTA to get out of the taxi business; or, barring that, he wants to pass a proposition that will keep the SFMTA from spending money taken from the cab industry on anything except cab drivers.

Well - the possibility of the MTA firing itself is pretty slim. The only way to keep the money for the drivers would be to get the public to pass ballot proposition. The best way to get a proposition on the ballot is to have either the Mayor or the Board of Supervisors vote to put it on the ballot.


Mayor Ed Lee, who wants to become a permanent mayor, is unlikely to back a group that alienates the voters and, most of the Supervisors, who have never much liked us much anyway, really dislike us now.

Meaning that the only way to get the proposal on the ballot is finding enough of the alienated public to sign a petition to put it on and then getting enough votes from the same alienated public to pass the measure.

Whoops. Whoops.

Shooting Oneself in the Foot: Part 3.

Perhaps the most consistent complaint that cab drivers have is about the illegal limos, town cars and cabs that steal legitimate cab driver's fares.

Perhaps the most consistent complaint that the public has is that taxicabs are not picking them up with enough frequency.

So, Mehmood and his minions intend to punish the public by making sure that they get fewer cabs than usual?

Now, that's what I call a brilliant strategy - for the illegal limos, town cars and taxis that is. Ubercab and that ilk should have field day.

And, you know? I've yet to hear anybody call Tariq Mehmood a genius.

Shooting Oneself in the Foot: Part 4.

Mehmood has claimed that his drivers would be striking if the MTA didn't agree to compromise on the credit card fees, the electronic waybills and the back seat-terminals. Of course we know this is a lie. He called for this strike before the last protest (see lead quote.)

Besides, the MTA has already compromised, or is considering compromising on all these things. And, this ignores the one thing that the strikers talk about the least. The elephant in the room. The fact that this Board meeting is about passing a meter increase of around 24%.

This means that even if credit card fees are not renegotiated (as the MTA says they will be) the cab drivers will still get a raise of about 18% to 20%. I would call that a compromise. Some drivers want the credit card fees passed on to the public. What do they think a meter increase does?

The only important issue on August 2nd will be to try and make certain that the cab companies do not raise the gates.

Is the MTA more or less likely to do this if they are surrounded by honking cabs who refuse to pick passengers up?

With the probable exception of Supervisor John Avalos, the Board of Supervisors is recommending that the meter increase not be put into effect.

If  drivers are going to strike no matter what the MTA does, the Board might just follow the supes advice.

I'd hate to see Tariq and his troops ruin things for the thousands - the vast majority of San Francisco's hard working taxi drivers - who won't be on strike.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a cabdriver who is pretty disgusted with the credit card scam and I apreciate this writers rational. Basically it's impossible to organize cab drivers because we're as selfish as e everyone else, ie we competeagainst each other. I think we would get more honey with kindness, but will get screwed. Note that the mta first screws us before giving us anything (which they haven't) because they can. I also think there isn't enough business in the winter for there to be more cabs on the streets. Give us what muni drivers get then...I mean what is the mta doing forp us? Taking away our medillions and about 1000 dollars a year of my Income in cc fees. I know this is a ramble, but it is confusing and we are a disempoweredGroup of people.