United Taxicab Workers
Supervisor Daly Does an About-Face
He rode in on a white horse, at the last minute, ready to rescue the damsel in distress. Then he rode out again, leaving her trapped in the tower. In this case, the damsel is Proposition K of 1978, and the knight in tarnished armor, Supervisor Chris Daly.
On the day of the filing deadline, Daly submitted a ballot measure that would have safeguarded the principles of Prop K in the City Charter, thereby preserving the measure from the designs of Mayor Gavin Newsom and the MTA. The agency has thus far seemed receptive to Newsom’s call for the sale of medallions in order to raise millions for Muni.
In April, the agency placed in its budget $15 million to be gained from medallion sales, without having held any discussion of the wisdom of such a move, or its effects on drivers who have spent years on the list for a medallion. The money is currently being held in reserve, awaiting further decisions on whether and how it should be collected and spent.
Daly's ballot measure would have made that impossible. Taxi medallions would have remained non-transferable, preserving the current system and the futures of applicants. But the measure contained another element that may have proved its undoing. It called upon the city to make provision for disability, retirement and health care for medallion holders and non-medallion holders alike.
Disability and retirement belonged in the measure. They are part and parcel of any discussion of Prop K, which has been criticized for its lack of an “exit strategy” for medallion holders. But all drivers are subject to injury, infirmity and old age, so it made sense to include protections for all in the measure.
Health care is a different story, however. Daly, a long-time proponent of a taxi driver health plan, badly wanted this in the measure. And that provision was most likely what killed it.
UTW has championed a health plan for drivers for a number of years. But we were not in favor of putting it into the ballot measure. Despite the importance of the issue, it was not directly related to Prop K, as disability and retirement are. And with a national health plan in the offing, a local cab driver plan might well have proven superfluous.
Cost was also a concern. Daly wanted to leave the door open for a city contribution to the plan. But that would have made the measure vulnerable to attack on account of the city's budget problems. It seemed highly unlikely that under current conditions the voters would have supported a measure that could potentially have put the city on the hook for millions of dollars.
Rather than revising the measure to conform to these realities, Daly gave up. And so, the damsel is still in the tower, awaiting the tender mercies of the mayor and the MTA.
Wish her luck.
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