Cab companies say strikers spitting on, assaulting employees

Associated Press

Travelers arriving at McCarran International Airport make their way through the taxi queue in Las Vegas on Friday, March 1, 2013.

Cabbies Picket in Front of LVCC

Cab drivers hold an informational picket at the intersection of Convention Center Drive and Paradise Road in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center Wednesday, October 31, 2012. The drivers' unions are in a contract dispute with Frias Transportation and disagree with proposed changes in the companys seniority policies. They also say the company does not pay drivers fair wages. Launch slideshow »

Taxi industry regulators are preparing to put additional cabs on Las Vegas streets next week while drivers from the two largest taxi company groups continue to squabble with company management.

Frias Transportation Management, which operates five cab companies, and Yellow-Checker-Star (YCS) Transportation, which has three, are operating through labor disputes involving two separate unions. Between the two groups, the companies operate more than half of Clark County’s taxis.

Officials with YCS last week filed a National Labor Relations Board complaint against the Industrial Technical & Professional Employees union and its parent organization alleging a number of charges, including a death threat against the daughter of a YCS manager.

Nevada Taxicab Authority administrator Charles Harvey said Friday he would issue 10 more cabs per company on Monday to ensure adequate taxi service during one of Southern Nevada’s largest conventions.

The National Association of Broadcasters convention begins Saturday and is expected to have 96,000 people attending when the trade show floor opens Monday.

The five-member Taxicab Authority board approved an order in November authorizing up to 30 cabs per company to companies unaffected by labor actions. In early March, when a strike by United Steelworkers Union drivers against Frias seemed imminent at the peak of NCAA basketball tournaments, Harvey allowed an additional 20 cabs per company.

Driver strikes against YCS and Frias have taken different paths over the past two months.

After months of unsuccessful negotiations and an impasse at the bargaining table, YCS management on Feb. 3 implemented a five-year term and conditions of employment package and notified drivers of its intent to operate with them. YCS called the document the company’s “best and final offer.”

About 75 percent of the YCS’ 1,700 drivers are union members. Most of the union drivers returned to work shortly after the terms and conditions were implemented, but about 100 continued to stage protests and violence started to escalate in March.

On March 29, YCS lawyer Marc Gordon submitted an unfair labor practices complaint against the union. In the complaint, Gordon said that since March 3, union drivers have parked their private vehicles outside the residences of YCS managers; placed nails, screws and tire-puncturing devices on managers’ driveways; have spit on and assaulted nonstriking employees; attempted to run YCS taxis off the road; and have attempted to cause accidents with YCS cabs.

Bill Shranko, general manager of YCS, whose daughter is a missionary in Africa, said striking workers have said they were going to go to Africa to kill his daughter.

Shranko said Friday that YCS, which has been hiring replacement drivers, is at 67 percent of its normal workforce and is continuing to hire and train new drivers.

Frias, meanwhile, signed a collective bargaining agreement with the Steelworkers union March 11. But union drivers say they weren’t given the opportunity to vote on the contract and that union leaders signed it without a vote authorization. The union’s constitution allows a negotiating team to sign an agreement without a vote.

About 140 of the company’s 2,000 drivers turned in their cars and staged a wildcat strike in protest, although some drivers said they believed the contract would have won approval had it come to a vote.

Frias managers also say they’re concerned about violence escalating and have contacted Metro Police to protect employees leaving and arriving at Frias’ campus.

“While most of our drivers just want to work and move forward, there is a small group of malcontent drivers who are protesting the contract,” Frias President and CEO Mark James said in a statement.

“We are concerned by the fact that this group is now creating safety concerns for our employees coming to and leaving from our campus who just want to do their job,” James said. “Safety of our employees and our customers is the first and utmost priority to us as a company, and it is more than a little unsettling for us to see that a small minority of people, many of which are not even Frias drivers or former Frias drivers, are trying to place undue pressure on those that are not following what these protestors want.”

Shranko said a number of striking YCS drivers have been seen at demonstrations against Frias.

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