Yesterday I received a message from Richard Barrera, Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. I want to share it with you for a couple of important reasons. First, at a time when unions are under attack, it's important to celebrate victories. Second, it's a great example of why it's important for unions to be involved in politics. The hard work of Labor Council to get a majority of middle class friendly members on the San Diego City Council is what created the opportunity for a victory for our union brothers and sisters in the United Taxi Workers of San Diego.
This is just another reason why I'm excited that SEA is part of the Labor Council and proud to be a member of the council's executive board.
Richard Barrera's Message . . .
Brothers and Sisters,
As taxi workers streamed out onto the Civic Concourse Monday night chanting "USA, USA!," we all felt a surge of pride and clarity about what it means to be an American Union Member. The Taxi Workers, proud members of the United Taxi Workers of San Diego, had just won one of the most important policy victories for working families in San Diego history. In summary, by an 8-1 bipartisan vote, the City Council approved a motion by Marti Emerald to lift the cap on taxi permits issued by the City, meaning that drivers who currently pay on average nearly $10,000 a year in leases to permit holders can now become owner operators. And that means drivers now have the freedom and opportunity to support their families through their hard work.
The victory by UTWSD comes five years after drivers, improperly classified as independent contractors and without NLRB recognition, came together and organized a strike to protest their wages, benefits and working conditions. Despite constant harassment, retaliation and intimidation by permit holders and dispatch companies over the last five years, and despite obstruction by public agencies, these workers stuck together, fought back against injustice, and prevailed. It reminds and teaches all of us that a union is not formed by formal government recognition, it is formed by workers standing together to fight for justice and a brighter future for their families. And UTWSD clarifies for all of us a path to victory for workers even in the age of Harris v. Quinn, ALEC, the Koch Brothers and the anti-worker elements of San Diego (see the Regional Chamber of Commerce, which spoke out against the taxi workers last night). Victory comes from organizers listening to workers, developing leaders, planning a path to win and sticking to the plan no matter how hard it gets. The UTWSD path, although creative and relevant to modern times, is the path that built not only the labor movement, but every movement in the history of our country that has pushed us closer to our American ideals. Thank you Mikaiil, Sarah, and the members of UTWSD for making us a more perfect union.
San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council