Las Vegas Sun

October 4, 2015

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Taxi drivers reject labor agreement, authorize strike


Leila Navidi

During the boom years in Las Vegas, a line of taxis such as this at McCarran International Airport would have moved quickly. But with the economy in a recession and fewer people flying here for vacation, cabdrivers say they can wait as long as 45 minutes to book fares from the airport.

Union taxi drivers in a contract dispute with the Frias Transportation Management group have overwhelmingly rejected a labor agreement and authorized union leaders to strike.

A representative of the United Steelworkers Local 711-A said in a contract vote Tuesday that 99.5 percent of nearly 1,800 Frias drivers rejected the contract, citing a dispute over proposed changes in seniority policy.

Representatives of Frias could not be reached for comment, but a spokeswoman for the union said a negotiating committee of union and management representatives would meet next Tuesday to consider any new proposals.

Frias is the largest taxicab operator in Southern Nevada, owning the ANLV, Virgin Valley, ABC Union, Vegas Western and ACE Cab companies. The Steelworkers also have union contracts with the Whittlesea Bell group, which includes the Whittlesea Blue and Henderson Taxi companies, and is in the process of negotiating their first contract with Western Cab Co. The union represents about 3,000 transit drivers in Southern Nevada.

Union staff representative Julie Holzer said the contract vote only affects the five Frias companies and that she doesn't expect other union drivers to join the action.

Local 711-A Unit President Yonus Tessema said the proposed Frias seniority policy would modify the bid order for shifts and what vehicles they drive. He said new drivers joined senior workers in opposition to the proposal.

Drivers are working under a contract extension after the previous agreement expired Sept. 11. The extension allows drivers to continue working under the previous contract while talks proceed, but the vote also gives the union leverage by allowing its negotiating committee to call a strike.

Cab drivers have struck and demonstrated in Las Vegas in the past over various issues.

In February, off-duty cab drivers slowed traffic on the Strip for three hours to call attention to new allocations of cabs that resulted in fewer fares for the larger number of drivers.

In 2011 and 2008, drivers staged similar demonstrations over the allocation of additional licenses for cabs.

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