Three Toronto cab drivers are staging a hunger strike outside City Hall to protest Uber’s continuing existence as a superior alternative to taxis.
One of the men, Behrouz Kamseh, who has been driving a cab in the city for 28 years, says the trio will camp out at Nathan Phillips Square until Uber ceases operations. He considers it the last action taxi drivers can take to express their displeasure without pissing people off.
“You want the public to be on your side. By shutting down the street, I don’t think we’d make the public happy,” Kamseh said. “This is not greed. We are just protecting our livelihood.”
That is certainly is a valid argument. One cabbie who came to support the strike yesterday said he’s seen his pay decrease by almost 50 per cent over the last two years and now makes just seven dollars an hour.
The thing is, this isn’t Uber’s fault, and their frustration is severely misguided. Free market capitalism wasn’t introduced yesterday, so the notion that taxi drivers should be entitled to a monopoly is absurd. You beat the competition by adapting your product or service to changing consumer demand, not by lobbying for bans.
The cab industry’s survival has nothing to do with how Uber chooses to operate its business; it hinges on its own ability to modernize and work with the municipal government to shed some of the suffocating regulations that have been imposed on taxis since the very beginning.
One of the biggest quarrels, of course, is the issue of licensing. Most cabbies will point out that they have to pay extraordinary fees to obtain a license, some up to $300,000, while (currently) Uber drivers don’t have to pay anything at all. Rather than expecting everyone on the road to give in to this racket, it makes a lot more sense to absolve it altogether – something Uber is already achieving.
Their message off-course, there’s almost no hope for the strike to achieve anything but hunger. The men carry a banner that reads a quote by Toronto major John Tory – “Uber is operating outside the law” – but even their ally in the city’s top office concedes it’s not practical to ban Uber.
“I’m sorry that they’ve chosen to have a hunger strike, because I don’t think these are effective ways of speeding up a process that we embarked on with as much urgency as possible,” Tory said.
Indeed, establishing a system that loosens rules for taxis and puts Uber under regulation cannot be achieved before severe deficiency in caloric energy intake fails to maintain human life.
For the sake of the protesters’ well-being, we hope the promise of a more equitable structure will be enough to end the strike.