Cab drivers fired at protest over Airport Taxi fare cut

Updated January 18 at 6:30 p.m. (see bottom)

Around 200 cab drivers, mostly Somali and male, protested January 18 in New Hope against Airport Taxi for what they say are unfair rates. The drivers demanded to speak with the owner of the company, Steve Pint. Instead, they were met with notices saying they were fired. Fliers were posted on each of the cabs that showed up to the protest, stating, “Your lease has been terminated and your auto insurance has been cancelled effective immediately.”

Yemani Mebrahtu, from the Minneapolis Taxi Cab Drivers and Owners Association, said that the most of the drivers for Airport Taxi drive for people with UCARE and Medicaid accounts. Payment for these rides is set at a flat rate, which was recently cut by the company. Mebrahtu said they didn’t know how much Airport Taxi receives from the government for these accounts.

Mebrahtu said drivers have to pay a fixed rate to Airport Taxi, regardless of whether there is a holiday, or the driver has an accident or is sick. The fixed rate for drivers who own their car is $310/week and drivers who use a company car pay $520/week.

Eid Ali said the dispute has been going on for “at least a decade”, but new cuts to the rates caused drivers to strike three weeks ago. “We want to sit down with the company and resolve these problems,” he said. 

For non-contract rides, the old meter rate was $2.50/mile, according to Ali, whereas now it is $2.75/mile. For contract rides, which are at a flat rate, the minimum for a ride used to be $13, and now is $10. Ali said it depends on the trip. “Some went from $30 to $20,” he said. 

Fisseha Guanje, who’s been driving a cab for 13 years and has two kids, said the drivers don’t want to join a union. “We just want to sit down and talk to the company owner,” he said. Instead, they all got fired for showing up to protest. Guanje is particularly concerned about the $1,000 deposit he made when starting with the company. He’s not sure he’ll get it back — and in any case, there is no interest. “They kick you out – no interest!” he said.

Guanje is worried about supporting his family now that he’s fired, but ultimately, “I can’t afford to do this job,” he said.

Update: Steve Pint emailed the following statement late in the day on Wednesday: 

We have met with this group of drivers, which represents less than 25% of the entire fleet, twice to listen to their concerns and educate them on recent price concessions that needed to be made with one of our accounts.  We felt after the first meeting they understood and accepted the concessions and all of them went back to work.  The group requested a follow up meeting last week to address the same concerns.  We again explained to them the reason and they now do not accept them. As a result, and since they are independent contractor drivers, we have asked drivers who are not wanting to affiliate with us and accept our pricing structure to simply leave.  These drivers instead started a protest which has interfered with our business so we are now exercising our contractual rights when deemed appropriate and canceling some or all of their agreements with us.  On a case by case basis, we are already meeting with some of the drivers involved in the protest and have come to some understandings which has put these drivers back to work. 

Our primary commenting system uses Facebook logins. If you wish to comment without having a Facebook account, please create an account on this site and log in first. If you are already a registered user, just scroll up to the log in box in the right hand column and log in.

Sheila Regan's picture
Sheila Regan

Sheila Regan (sheila [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net) is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

This is not good

I have a company too and I wouldn't be same like this guy



You got half the story...

I am also a lease driver with Airport Taxi. Because of the stellar work the company does in attracting clientele, it is the most desirable company in the Twin Cities to drive for.
The drivers interviewed in this story did not give you an accurate accounting of the rate decrease. While the minimum fare did get lowered from 13 to 10 dollars, all other rates were only lowered by a dollar. Claims to the contrary are simply false.
The rate decreases were necessitated by pressure from the insurance providers in order to maintain our call volume. My personal feeling is that from a business standpoint, 80% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
It should be noted that while all the protesting drivers were of Somali origin, not all of our Somali drivers participated, or agree with the protesters, and are a vital part of this company.

Airport Taxi Dispute

So the drivers "don't want to join a union"?  Companies that operate like Airport Taxi love to hear that kind of talk. Companies like this are why unions exist. Join the union or you will be treated like dirt wherever you work. It's what working people need to do, Period.

Taxi dispute

I ride the airport taxi service weekly on the Medical side.  I did some researc and found out that the companies and government that pays for the rides have raised their pay to the company yet the company lowered the pay to the driver.  how's that for greed.  The driver barely make enough to pay bills let alone the fuel at prices today.

If the company is so hard up for money then maybe it shouldn't have more than 400 drivers.  They keep hiring more and more drivers this is why they have no money.

Maybe the company should look internally in the office or at how they spend the money they bring in.  I find its usually spent wrong.

You're the expert?

You've done a little research, and think you know it all. Let me give you some insight from EXPERIENCE in this industry. You make it sound like the cab company is skimming the total cost of the run. This isn't the case.

In any business, the need to be competive with others is a must. These accounts go to the lowest bidding company. I don't think they would bid so low as to kill their drivers. The real problem is these drivers want to go to the airport from Fridley every run. They don't want a $10 mediical run because it puts them in the back of the eletronic line when they get done. The priices are not the issue. The drivers simply knew people like you wouldn't see it their way if they said "I want a better run, and they send me to pick you up!"

I know this company. They treat the drivers well, unlesss the drivers break the rules or treat the clients like diirt. Even then they try and work with them to correct the action. They don't like investing training, and adminiistrative costs just to have to end thee contract.

If I was Mr. Pint and the drivers I have fought so hard for to get more work, and keeping the contracts they have, started making a public protest just to get their way, and then started spewing negitive statements about the comany, I would do EXACTLY what he did. Personally I would've take all the cabs on the spot and reported any that left the protest with their car as stolen.

It's funny that people support these drivers as long as it doesn't personally affect them. However, they're sure quick to act when a Somali driver cuts them off, or hits them, and you look in the mirror to see them HANG UP THEIR PHONE they were talking on.