SpeakOut – Grabbing a Cab? Use a Local Company, Not a Big Bully

At a hearing this fall before Kansas City’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, an immigrant to the United States urged officials to intervene in Yellow Cab’s business tactics, which stand a good chance of running our local minority and women-owned taxi cab companies out of business. In his poignant statement, he asked the City Council committee to allow him to continue pursuing his “American dream.”
Here’s the tactic in question: Yellow Cab has been persuading the major hotels and casinos in town to enter into exclusive contracts. Once the contract is signed, nobody but Yellow Cab drivers can pick up or drop off customers at these high-dollar tourist destinations. Cab drivers from other companies face the possibility of police action for attempting to do business in these locations.
And these destinations are the ones that make cab-driving a financially viable enterprise in Kansas City. The owner of Checker Cab, Sheri Watson, told the committee that unless something is done immediately, all of our local, women and minority-owned independent cab companies will go out of business within months.
City Council is looking into the legality of the situation. I won’t pretend to be an authority on city ordinances, but I do know that Yellow Cab’s moves are unnecessary and un-Kansas Citian. In response to the company’s bullying tactics, I encourage the LGBT community to stick with using local cab companies, many of which are family businesses.
It is bad for the moral and cultural health of our city when local minority- and women-owned businesses are put out of business by a big, out-of-town company. And Yellow Cab is very out-of-town. It’s owned by Transdev (formerly known as Veolia Transport), which is a French-owned multibillion-dollar company with operations in 20 countries.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a big French company. But when a bulldozing Goliath pushes its weight around like this, the economic power in our city becomes even less diverse. And although Yellow Cab may employ many drivers who are women and minorities, being an employee and being an owner are two different things, with different amounts of economic influence.
Yellow Cab isn’t going anywhere, and who knows what City Council will decide about the legality of the company’s exclusive contracts. But we as consumers can help protect this diverse pocket of our larger, inequitable economy.
We can hire locally owned taxi companies, which will help preserve the economic power of our women and minority business owners. We can catalyze this American dream idea that not even ugly inequities have been able to squelch.
So have fun boozing it up at Missie’s or Sidekicks or whatever establishment you choose. And then call a local cab company. If you hit the casinos, insist on using local taxi companies.
Yellow Cab can be a part of the neighborhood without being allowed to wipe out every family on the block.

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