NOLA Taxi Drivers Push for Seat at the Table

by Namita Waghray  |  December 10, 2015

NOLA Taxi Drivers Push for Seat at the Table Members of New Orleans Cab Drivers for Justice/AFSCME Local 234 and community supporters rally outside city hall to support the “Smart Transportation Ordinance.” (Photo by Namita Waghray)

NEW ORLEANS – Members of New Orleans Cab Drivers for Justice/AFSCME Local 234 are urging the mayor and city council members to adopt an ordinance that will give them a seat at the table when lawmakers craft transportation policy

The proposed measure, which the union calls the Smart Transportation Ordinance, would give the union the right to consult with the city on matters affecting drivers.  It would also create an appeals board that does not require cab drivers to go through a civil court to resolve disputes, and permits the drivers to be represented by the union.

“We just want a voice, and a seat at the table that makes sure they hear what we have to say,” said Local 234 Vice Pres. Niran Gurnesaka during a city hall rally last month. “For too long, taxi drivers in this area have to simply accept transportation policy. If it is unfair, we have to fight it after the fact. The Smart Transportation Ordinance lets us provide our expertise and input as the transportation policy is devised.”

Gurnesaka called the proposed ordinance more efficient, and noted that it “saves time and money both for the city as well as taxi drivers.”

About 100 cab drivers and supporters crowded the city hall steps, then took their proposal inside to present it to all city council members, urging them to quickly introduce and adopt the ordinance, explaining that they were only asking for commons sense, transparency and a transportation policy that included their input. The council members so far have been noncommittal.

A smaller delegation led by Delores Montgomery, the president of AFSCME Local 234 met with and Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s chief of staff and answered questions about the ordinance. Another meeting is expected to be held next month.

“We know this makes sense,” said Eddie Cutno, AFSCME Local 234’s political chair. “Taxi drivers support this, the community supports this, and cab companies support this. We just need the city of New Orleans to respect taxi drivers and pass the Smart Transportation Ordinance.”

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