Taxi Drivers Strike at San Jose Airport Over Ridesharing

SAN JOSE, Calif. (San Jose Mercury News/TNS) -

Upset over the City Council’s consideration of eliminating strict rules for ridesharing drivers, taxi drivers operating at Mineta San Jose International Airport went on strike Monday.

Shakur Buni, president of the San Jose Airport Taxi Driver Association, said that about 300 drivers walked off the job.

Initially, the drivers planned to go to City Hall. Instead, they drove past the airport terminals without stopping, leaving people to find alternate transportation during a downpour.

“We are not providing service to the traveling customer,” Buni said.

The strike caught some travelers by surprise and added a layer of frustration as they scrambled to find alternate rides.

Airport officials were aware of the potential strike and have made contingency plans, according to spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes.

Barnes said the airport has a large fleet of door-to-door shuttles “that can step in as needed,” and the taxi operator that provides service to the airpoirt, Taxi San Jose, can ask other cab drivers in the city to fill in.

The work stoppage is happening in advance of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, where city leaders will consider eliminating mandatory fingerprints for all drivers for ridesharing companies Lyft and Uber, replacing it with random monthly audits of 1 percent of the drivers. The audits would verify the driver’s identity, review their criminal history and look for any outstanding warrants.

In June, the city adopted rules requiring drivers for ridesharing companies to submit fingerprints and meet vehicle-age requirements before picking up passengers at the airport, a bid to appease the more heavily regulated traditional taxi companies, who complained of unfair competition. But Lyft and Uber denounced the regulatory scheme, and no drivers for the ridesharing companies agreed to sign up.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the ridesharing as well as limousine and shuttle companies, requires background checks for drivers. But cities may establish the rules for ground transportation at their airports.

The monthly auditing process, a model that has been used in San Diego, would include random curbside audits using mobile fingerprinting equipment.

Yellow Cab General Manager Larry Silva argued that all taxicab drivers submit fingerprints and ridesharing companies should follow the same rules.