Potential taxicab strike could put Clark County in ‘emergency situation’
Negotiators with the United Steelworkers union and the Frias Transportation Management group met today, a day after taxi drivers took to the streets in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center to call attention to stalled contract talks.
If a deal is not met, a strike could occur next week, taking more than half the city's taxis off the road.
An estimated 200 drivers demonstrated as the convention center emptied on the second day of the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show that is being attended by more than 100,000 people. Metro Police and witnesses said the demonstration was orderly.
The union and Frias reportedly have been far apart on proposed changes to the company’s seniority policies. Drivers have been working without a contract since Sept. 11.
Frias is the largest cab operator in Southern Nevada, and the Steelworkers represent about 1,800 drivers for the ANLV, Virgin Valley, ABC Union, Vegas Western and ACE Cab companies.
Negotiating teams returned to the table weeks after union members overwhelmingly rejected Frias’ latest contract offer and authorized a strike.
At issue in the negotiations are how drivers are allowed to bid for their shifts. The company wants to change the bidding process to allow better-performing employees to get preferred shifts. Employees would be ranked by attendance, job performance and productivity. Currently, the ranking is by seniority.
Union leaders object to the performance-based standards because they believe the emphasis on productivity would lead to more drivers using illegal means, such as long-hauling customers, to produce more revenue.
The Steelworkers contract talks are running simultaneously with negotiations between the Industrial Technical Professional Employees union and Yellow-Checker-Star, the second-largest cab operation in Southern Nevada.
The union’s contract with YCS expired Wednesday, and both sides agreed to an eight-day extension.
Sources with knowledge of the unions’ strategy believe the Steelworkers and ITPE have aligned and could walk off the job next week when the YCS extension expires at midnight Nov. 8.
The next major convention in Las Vegas begins Nov. 12 when Fabtech, a metalworkers show with a predicted attendance of 30,000 people, begins a three-day run at the Convention Center.
The eight cab companies operated by Frias and YCS represent more than half the taxicab fleet in Clark County. The Nevada Taxicab Authority on Wednesday moved to minimize the impact of a potential strike by issuing an order allowing cab companies to temporarily add up to 30 vehicles to their fleets if a strike is called.
Under the unanimously approved order, the board would attempt to convene within 24 hours of a called strike, and if a meeting could not be set, the allocation of a maximum 30 cabs per company would be allowed, subject to Taxicab Authority Administrator Charles Harvey’s assessment of whether public needs were being met.
Whittlesea Blue Cab and Henderson Taxi, companies that are part of the Bell Transportation Group, made the request for additional cabs. Every cab company except Frias supported the request.
YCS’ intervention, prepared by the company’s lawyer Marc Gordon, said “the taxicab industry in Clark County is facing a possible emergency situation.”
Officials with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority attended the Taxicab Authority meeting but made no presentation. The city’s tourism marketers are hoping they won’t have to react to negative publicity that could be generated by a strike.
Violent taxi industry strikes in Las Vegas in the 1950s and 1960s led the state to form the Taxicab Authority.