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History Of Gate Control
Ma’s proposal on behalf of her cab company benefactors to end
gate control would undo cab drivers’ main economic protection
and steal away one of United Taxicab Workers’ hardest-won victories.
For years before the gate cap came into effect, drivers saw their gates
go up at more than twice the rate of inflation. Gates were under $40
a shift in the early 1980’s, but had reached $90-95 by late 1998,
when the Board of Supervisors enacted the cap.
In 1997 and 1998 alone, gates at major companies went up $10-15 a shift.
Luxor Cab led the way, boosting their charges to drivers $15 with two
gate hikes within a matter of weeks.
The gate cap victory didn’t come easy. UTW first started working
on the issue in 1994, and made it the centerpiece of a package of reforms
we took to the voters in 1995. That measure was soundly defeated, largely
because it tried to cover too much ground.
But another opportunity for gate control arose in 1997, when Mayor Willie
Brown convened a Taxi Task Force chaired by then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom.
Driver representatives included two UTW members, but cab companies,
permit holders and members of the public allied with company interests
were also well represented.
In the end, the task force recommended a watered-down version of gate
control that would have gained drivers nothing in the end. Companies
would be allowed to charge an average of $95 a shift — more than
most were charging at the time. Only after a huge increase in the size
of the taxi fleet would the gate come down, and then only to $90. And
the cap would expire in two years, freeing companies to charge what
UTW fought the recommendation tooth-and-nail. We proposed a cap of $75,
and with the help of Supervisor Tom Ammiano, gained a compromise: an
average of $83.50 a shift, without a sunset on the cap.
Since the cap went into effect in early 1999, the Board of Supervisors
has allowed only one increase. In 2002, it amended the cap to allow
companies to charge an average of $91.50 (including $1.50 for the paratransit
program). In exchange, drivers were promised a health care plan that
is just now starting to emerge.
While minimum wage and living wage laws shield other workers, the gate
cap is the cab driver’s only safeguard against predatory company
practices. That is why Ma and her cab company buddies are trying to
do away with it. Over our dead bodies . . .