Taxi drivers like me start every week hundreds of dollars in debt.

My name is Gurminder Kahlon; I am from India. In India I was a lawyer. Here I am a taxi Driver.

Because of taxi drivers like me, people traveling for business, medical reasons, and to visit family and friends get to Sea-Tac Airport conveniently and on time for their flights.

The Port of Seattle and the big corporate Airlines like Alaska depend on ground transportation services like taxi and shuttle drivers. And yet, we struggle to make a living. Just to have the privilege of picking up customers at our Airport, we pay fees to Yellow Cab and to the Port of Seattle. Before I start work on Monday morning, I am already hundreds of dollars in debt. I have to work 12 hours a day and 6 days a week just to make ends meet.

It’s not right. That’s why I’m standing together with all workers for fair pay and respect.

Taxi Drivers drive home a message to the Port of Seattle.

by Nate Jackson

Selah Mohammed, a taxi driver sporting sunglasses and a light blue button up shirt, spoke to the gathered media as tourists stood in line to board the cruise ship outside of the Port of Seattle’s headquarters on Pier 69.

“We, the taxi drivers, are part of this airport,” he said. “We provide a great service and we take pride in the work we do. We want the Port to solve this problem and enforce their own rules.”

Taxi drivers have a hard time making ends meet. Most of the cabbies start the week in a $1000 hole due to fees and regulations and have to dig themselves out before they make anything they can take home to their families. They already have enough challenges just to break even and now the Port of Seattle is making it harder by not enforcing its own rules that govern ground transportation at our airport.

Selah Mohammed speaks to the press

And don’t forget, it is our airport. Our airport is publicly owned and ran by the Port of Seattle. The Port is supposed to make sure that the airport works for the workers and customers alike and so far they have been failing the taxi drivers.

Sea-Tac Airport taxi cab drivers are fed up with the Port of Seattle’s lax enforcement of its own rules. They have tried to get the Port to respond for the past three months to no avail so they formed the Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association, which has never been done before at Sea-Tac Airport and sent a small delegation to deliver a letter the association created demanding the Port follow its own rules.

The letter, authorized by the hundreds in the taxi driver association, is addressed to the executives of the Port of Seattle who oversee the operations of the airport. The simple demand is for the Port do its part and follow its own rules.

Selah Mohammed continues.

“We are here to deliver a letter to Tay Yoshitani, the CEO of the Port of Seattle,” he said. “We are working hard every day to help this airport work and we follow the rules. We just want everyone else to follow them too.”

This isn’t about taxi driver vs limo driver. It is a direct appeal to the Port of Seattle to make sure that everyone follows the rules and is on an equal basis so that the “competition” can be on a level playing field. The taxi drivers just want a fair chance as they have always abided by the strict rules that the Port created.

After all it is our port, publicly owned, and if it is truly supposed to be an economic engine for the region, it needs to make sure that all the players can get out of first gear.

Another driver, Paul Singh, came forward as he pointed to the over sized copy of the letter.

“We are bound to follow the rules,” he said thumbing at the letter. “The Port is going around their own rules like they don’t matter. It’s not fair and we want it to stop.”

Passengers should have the choice in what transportation they take when they arrive at our port. Competition, when done fairly, is a good thing that drives workers to provide better service and gives customers choice. The problem is that other transportation options are not being forced to follow the stringent rules that cabbies are and this hurts the competitiveness of the taxi drivers. Taxi drivers should have a decent shot at making a living.

“We just want the competition to be fair.” he said. “We’ve formed an association and we are all in this together.”

After answering some questions from the gathered reporters the dozen taxi drivers entered the Port of Seattle Headquarters and asked to speak with Tay Yoshitani. The person at the front desk informed them that Yoshitani was not in, but she called up an executive to speak with them.

The taxi drivers delivered the letter and the signatures to an executive named Tomm Munroe, thanked him for his time and went back outside to answer more questions from the press.

The drivers don’t want anything special. All they want is fair treatment and the Port of Seattle to play by its own rules. The ball is in the Port of Seattle’s court now. Let’s see what they do.

With no help from airport officials, taxi drivers take message to the public

NoTaxis at Sea-Tac?

Taxi drivers begin reaching out to Sea-Tac travelers as they consider next steps

More than 24 hours after airport taxi drivers delivered a petition calling on the publicly-owned Port of Seattle to take immediate action to ensure all drivers have a fair shot at making ends meet, Port officials had failed to respond to the drivers’ concerns. As a result, leaders of the Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association and community allies are taking action by reaching out to travelers for their support at all airport skybridges.

After paying for insurance, gas, leases, and a license to pick up passengers at Sea-Tac, drivers start off each week owing as much as $1000 — which means they effectively have to pay to work. But instead of helping give taxi drivers the opportunity to rise out of poverty, the Port is stacking the deck against them, making it even harder for them to make ends meet. The public outreach today is the next step chosen by drivers after they delivered hundreds of signatures on a unity petition that called on the Port of Seattle to take immediate action to enforce their own rules so that drivers have a shot at making ends meet.

No one expects to get rich driving a taxi at Sea-Tac Airport. Nobody should expect to be driven into poverty either.

by Nate Jackson

Taxi drivers with the Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association are demanding that the Port of Seattle enforce its own rules governing ground transportation at Sea-Tac Airport. To protest unfair conditions, taxi cab operators say that they may engage in a work stoppage. This could disrupt ground transportation for tourists, businesspeople, and other Sea-Tac travelers.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true: after lease fees, licensing costs, taxes, insurance, gas, and maintenance, taxi drivers who pick up passengers at our airport start the work week as much as $1000 in the hole. That includes money they pay to dispatch companies like Yellow Cab and a weekly fee of more than $300 they have to pay to the Port of Seattle in order to pick up passengers at Sea-Tac.

Taxi drivers are technically classified as “independent contractors,” but in addition to the weekly fee they pay, they must follow detailed rules in exchange for the right to pick passengers up at our airport. Cabbies have set prices they cannot change, a set place to park, set rules on how they cannot approach or solicit customers, and tight rules on the appearance and condition of their taxis. They even have to follow a dress code that is written by the Port of Seattle.

These rules are created by the Port of Seattle and they are supposed to benefit the customers and taxi drivers alike by ensuring orderly & reliable service for travelers. Unfortunately, the Port of Seattle is failing to enforce the rules that they themselves set up.

For-hire limousines have suddenly been allowed to expand their services at the airport and solicit passengers, which confuses travelers and undercuts taxi cab drivers. There’s plenty of room for a wide variety of transportation options at the airport, from taxi and and limos to light rail and buses. Choices are a good thing, but the problem is that the Port of Seattle is not holding up its end of the bargain. The way they’re handling the situation is unfair, and it make things even harder for taxi drivers who are just trying to make a living.

For months, taxi drivers have raised these issues to public officials, asking the Port to simply enforce their own rules regarding transportation service in the airport. Still, the Port has done nothing to address the problem and ensure all drivers have the opportunity to make a decent living at our airport.

Taxi drivers don’t expect to get rich. They just want a chance to provide for themselves and their families and continue to provide the vital services many passengers rely on. This shouldn’t be complicated: it’s our port, it’s publicly owned, and it’s time the people who run the Port of Seattle lived up to their mission by making sure every job at our airport is a good job.

At this point the cabbies, have nearly exhausted their options, so they are starting to take collective action on their own. The taxi drivers are united and are ready to ready to take action to ensure they are treated fairly. It’s time that the Port of Seattle did the right thing: enforce the rules so that travelers have options and drivers have a shot at making a decent living.

Taxi cab drivers may engage in work stoppage over Port of Seattle’s failure to enforce regulations at Sea-Tac

The Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association will demand on Monday that the Port of Seattle enforce its own rules governing ground transportation at our airport. To protest unfair conditions, taxi cab operators may engage in a work stoppage, and this could disrupt ground transportation for tourists, businesspeople, and other Sea-Tac travelers.

When: Monday, July 16, 2012, 2 pm

Where: Port of Seattle headquarters: Pier 69, 2711 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121

What: Faith and community leaders join taxi cab drivers to call on the Port of Seattle to enforce its own rules. They will hold a press conference explaining the situation before delivering a unity petition signed by hundreds of taxi drivers to Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani.

Taxi cab drivers provide a crucial transportation link for thousands of Sea-Tac passengers each day, but many struggle to make ends meet despite working as long as 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. After paying for insurance, gas, leases, and airport pick-up fees, drivers start as much as $1000 in the hole each week — money they have to earn back before they see a cent in their pockets.

Recent actions by Port of Seattle management have made things even harder for these drivers — the Port is allowing other transportation providers to undercut taxi services, creating confusion for travelers and pushing drivers further into poverty. These actions by the Port are also in direct violation of the rules the Port itself has established to ensure reliable & efficient ground transportation choices.

Taxi drivers have repeatedly appealed to the Port to follow their own rules and hold up their end of the bargain so that they can have a shot at a decent living for themselves and their families. Monday, taxi cab operators and community leaders will call on Port leaders to enforce their own rules. Taxi drivers are also preparing for a possible work stoppage to protest the unfair conditions.

More information about poverty-wage jobs at our airport: Taxi drivers are among the thousands of workers who bring home only poverty wages for the vital and critical work of keeping Sea-Tac moving, including the people who get your bags from the ticket counter to the plane, make sure the aircraft cabins are clean, assist people in wheelchairs so they make their flights on time, and pump thousands of gallons of jet fuel into the planes. Airport workers are joining together to call on the elected officials who run our airport and the corporate players who profit from their work to say it’s time to make every airport job a good job.

For more about Teamsters 117, the Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association, and Working Washington’s campaign to make every job at our airport a good job, visit teamsters117.org and TeamsterTaxi.org.