January 2021 Open-the-Airport Progress
After years of campaigning, lobbying, and many delays, The San Diego Airport will soon open the permitting process for new cabs to pick up customers at the Airport. This is a tremendous victory, and is a result of our persistent efforts with the Airport authority over the past 4 years. Additionally UTWSD will soon sign a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the San Diego Airport Authority so that Airport drivers who are members of UTWSD will have additional benefits. These changes are scheduled to happen in January.
This campaign began in mid-2016 when union drivers met together in our office and decided that opening the Airport was the last major hurdle to truly get equality for taxi drivers. There was significant talk about this before with many drivers, but when the Airport allowed for any TNC (Uber/Lyft) driver to access the Airport, that felt like a slap in the face, and many drivers had enough of the Airport ignoring them.
The crux of the issue is, of course, that the Airport had not opened up the permitting process since the Cap was lifted at the City level. This meant that many of the drivers who had previously leased Airport cabs who were now owner-operators could no longer cue up at the Airport. This also meant that the underground market for medallions that we saw before the cap was lifted was essentially maintained at the Airport, as some of the older owners sold some of their airport cabs under-the-table, and then just maintain the driver on their books as a “lease”.
We brought up the issue of petty corruption to the Airport Board, and spoke about how unfair it was to allow for Uber and Lyft to have open access, while the drivers who had actually been driving at the Airport before, and wanted their independence from the Owners, were effectively shut out. While they found our reasons compelling, the Airport Board felt an obligation to the old owners, who they refer to as their “current partners”, to allow them to further “recoup the costs” of going green, and for working with the Airport to go “above and beyond” what they had to do at the City. They said they would maintain the Airport as it was, and revisit this issue in 3 years. That was in 2017.
Since that disappointing defeat in 2017 we stayed persistent, and continued to work with the Airport and with Ground Transportation. We understood that even though they didn’t open up the permitting process then, they were essentially still convinced with our argument, and it was only a matter of time before they were going to open the permitting process up. We, as UTWSD, joined the Airport Ad-Hoc Committee on Opening the Permitting Process, and secured ourselves as a voting member.
We continued to push for opening the Airport, but we also pushed for more of a role for ourselves too. Just as the Airport works with lobbyists from private business interests, like the rental car companies, park-and-fly lots, and the Airlines themselves, we want them to see us, UTWSD, as a partner to make the business of flying at the San Diego Airport better. Additionally, if the Airport has any issues with a driver who is a member of UTWSD, they will come to us to speak about getting the issue corrected, instead of sending it to the Sheriff’s Department to have them speak to the Driver.
Furthermore, UTWSD will be offering training to drivers on how the Airport line functions, and all the rules and regulations associated with driving at the Airport.
UTWSD has been organizing our MOU for the past several years with the list of owner-operators who are interested in driving at the Airport. This has been a critical step in our process of opening the Airport, and we will soon pass this list over to the Airport so that the Airport knows which drivers we are representing at this time.
We are encouraging all of our Union members who are owner-operators to sign the MOU, whether or not you decide to pursue an Airport permit. If you are not yet a union member, and would like to sign the MOU and receive all union benefits, then speak to Mikaiil in the office and he can get you signed up as a member.
This campaign to open the Airport took several years of hard work and patience. We appreciate all our members and drivers who did not give up hope. This fight shows that when we have a good strategy, and we persist, then we can fight and win, and overcome the obstacles in our path.