Union leaders of Yellow Checker Star Transportation cab drivers vowed on Friday to widen the 13-day strike but acknowledged that possibly their best chance had slipped away.
“We have to figure out ways to spread the strike; it’s got to get broader,” said Mike Goodwin, president of the Office and Professional Employees Union, told about 540 drivers at a meeting at the Rio. This meant not only dissuading the replacement drivers the company has started to hire but squeezing its revenue stream.
But United Steelworkers Union officials in Albuquerque threw in a surprise hurdle when they decided on Tuesday to sign the contract offer from Frias Transportation Management without putting it to a drivers vote. This averted the possibility of simultaneous work stoppages at Frias, the largest local cab company, and No. 2 Yellow Checker Star affecting more than half the operating permits known as medallions
Various venues around town have reported little or no disruption during the current strike, but feared that a double walkout would wreak havoc on the visitor industry.
“We should put a big, giant rat in front of the Steelworkers,” said Michael Reid, a Yellow Checker Star Driver. “We need an approach to deal with this treason.”
Goodwin told strikers, “I know everybody is angry about what happened at Frias. Nobody is more angry than me.”
That leaves the union to try to recruit support from drivers at other companies. In addition, it will place inflatable rats in front of still unidentified Strip resorts where Yellow Checker Star taxis wait in line and continue buying newspaper ads to rally broader public support.
Yonas Tessema, a member of the local Steelworkers, said numerous rumors had circulated that groups of Frias drivers might launch wildcat strikes as early as this weekend. He did not know whether any would come to pass.
According to Yellow Checker Star union estimates, close to half the driver shifts continue to remain unfilled and the number of drivers staying off the job remained about 900 out of 1,700.
Company chief operating officer Bill Shranko said the numbers fluctuated, with more drivers reporting to work on weekends and during the day than on weekdays and overnight shifts. This created a range that the percentage of shifts filled ranged from the low 50s to the mid-60s.
In addition, he said the company has begun hiring permanent replacement drivers, estimating it could take two months to rebuild completely. If drivers returned, he said, they would be eligible to return to work with the most senior drivers getting first priority.
Sam Moffit, a union steward, discounted the ability to replace everybody, noting that many new drivers quit after only a day or two.
Compensation has also been disputed. The company ads have announced the average pay as $38,000 a year, going as high as $60,000 for some of the top earners.
Moffit countered, “I have been a driver for 17 years and only earned $38,000 once.”
Tips are extra.
Tempers have occasionally flared. One protest on Wednesday night, when drivers in their own cars paraded down the Strip in tight formation, ended with four striking drivers being cited for battery by Nevada Taxicab Authority police. Union and management traded charges of unsafe driving practices, physical intimidation and staging the event to make the other side look bad.
“It’s going to be a long haul before there is any settlement,” said Dennis Arrington, president of the Industrial Technical & Professional Employees Union Local 4873. The Office and Professional Employees International Union is the parent union.
Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at email@example.com or 702-387-5290.