United Taxi Workers of San Diego

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United Taxi Workers of San Diego, California is a refugee and immigrant-led organization that is committed not only to working for the needs and rights of taxi drivers, but also for drivers for Transportation Network Companies (Uber, Lyft, etc.), and for their immigrant communities. As the taxi and personal transportation industries rapidly change, UTWSD stays flexible to prioritize their community’s needs.

Address:
4265 Fairmount Avenue, Suite 180
San Diego, CA 92105
www.utwsd.org

Mission:

The mission of UTWSD is to unify taxicab workers, to improve working conditions through direct advocacy and empowerment, to increase education and civic participation by taxi drivers and their families, and to improve professional transportation services for San Diego.

History:

Born from a taxi drivers’ strike, the UTWSD was formed in 2010. In 2012, UTWSD led a successful campaign to gain equal representation on the industry’s regulatory advisory committee, and in 2015 won a three-year campaign to “lift the cap” on taxi permits which had inflated the lease costs of most taxi drivers. In 2017, UTWSD began its current campaign to “lift the cap” on permits at the San Diego Airport, for the almost 50% of taxi drivers who are not permitted to operate there. This spring, UTWSD will be putting its own app into operation to compete with Transportation Network Companies in markets such as the labor and social justice communities.

The Issues:

Most taxi drivers in UTWSD’s community lease taxis from permit holders in an industry dominated by a few large owners and by local governmental agencies who disregard drivers’ needs. Before UTWSD, drivers lacked their own organization for collective action, with no associations that advocate for them like unions. In particular, they are now confronting the new domination of TNCs. Many taxi drivers are now TNC drivers with no power over their pay and working conditions.

Constituency and Leadership:

UTWSD advocates for drivers as small owner or lease drivers who have no legal power as independent contractors to gain better working conditions. UTWSD staff and activists are mostly members of San Diego’s East African refugee communities and reside mostly in the larger, diverse, low-income communities of urban San Diego, but also include immigrants from Latin America and the Middle East. The Board meets every two months to deliberate policy, review work of the organization, plan future work and drive fund-raising. UTWSD also conducts informal consultation with Somali, Ethiopian, Eritrean and other community leaders, and sustains one-on-one and group discussions with local taxi drivers.

Tackling Oppressive Structures:

Most taxi drivers are immigrants of color from developing countries that experienced colonialism and imperialism. Legacies of racism, tribalism and ethnic divisions often come with them to the U.S., and the traditional power brokers in the taxi industry have taken advantage of this and have kept taxi drivers divided and poor. UTWSD thus maintains multi-ethnic leadership as a strategy to build unity of purpose for all taxi drivers and shows respect to each immigrant community involved.

Movement Building:

Since 2010, the Employee Rights Center has been the UTWSD’s strategic partner in building solidarity in the taxi driver community and with the larger local labor movement. UTWSD’s local partners at the Center on Policy Initiatives and the Labor Council give UTWSD a stronger voice in its public advocacy. UTWSD has gained respect with local government agencies and politicians. Their leaders have also become conduits for mutual understanding between labor and other social justice activists and their own refugee immigrant communities. UTWSD has consulted with taxi driver organizations and with Somali community activists in other cities such as Minneapolis and Seattle.

Evaluation:

The UTWSD Board will evaluate their work by: (1) increase in dues-paying membership; (2) progress in gaining equity access for all taxi drivers to the San Diego Airport; (3) success in the introduction and use of the new app platform for member taxi drivers; and (4) increase in volunteer activism at UTWSD. The Board will also evaluate this work through interviews with its key partners, the Employee Rights Center, the Center on Policy Initiatives, and the Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Long-term Vision for Change:

UTWSD’s long-term vision is to create the kind of power for taxi and other personal transportation drivers that will require their regulating agencies and private companies such as the TNCs to negotiate with them over fair wages, good benefits and dignified working conditions that benefit their communities, too.

Organization Budget:  $115,000
Request: $10,000

Raised This Week to Date: $4,610

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