Cab Drivers Stop Traffic at Chicago Airports, Protesting Rahm Emanuel’s Uber-Friendly Proposal

Tom Ladendorf

CDU members protested against proposed policies that would open O'Hare and Midway airports to ridesharing services like Uber without holding them to the same standards as taxi drivers. (Chicago Dispatcher)

Hundreds of cab drivers at O’Hare and Midway airports in Chicago halted service late Wednesday morning in protest of new rules in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed 2016 budget. The action, which was organized by Cab Drivers United/​AFSCME Local 2500 (CDU), saw drivers blocking traffic near cab stands for roughly two hours, with many exiting their cabs to stand in protest.

Drivers acted in response to Emanuel’s proposed rules, which would allow rideshare services like Uber and Lyft access to the airports while maintaining their exemption from many of the regulations to which traditional taxi services are subject. The proposed rules are part of a wider effort, which includes a controversial property tax hike and new garbage fees, to close a $426 million gap in next year’s operating budget and fulfill the city’s overdue pension obligations.

In a CDU press release, taxi owner/​operator and CDU member Godwin Anetekhai mentioned that a plan his group released last week would raise $65 million a year just by making Uber follow the rules.” Cheryl Miller, another CDU member, attacked the mayor’s proposal for continuing to hold taxis to a higher standard than their rideshare counterparts. Miller listed some of the requirements cab drivers face, which include chauffeur’s licenses, background checks, drug tests and biannual cab inspection by a city-approved garage, adding that “[t]he mayor’s proposal doesn’t include any of these provisions.” The group’s release also calls the mayor’s proposal a giveaway to a $50 billion corporation but a job-killer for hard-working Chicago drivers.”

The mayor’s proposed rules have also been condemned by progressives on the city council, who see it as part of a regressive, pro-corporate regime. 35th Ward Alderman and Progressive Reform Caucus member Carlos Ramirez-Rosa called the rules a giveaway to Emanuel’s brother Ari, an Uber investor. Mayor Emanuel’s 2016 budget proposal shows that he will continue to govern in the interest of the rich and big corporations, and not in the interest of Chicago’s working families and our neighborhoods,” he added.

CDU’s action follows a protest at City Hall last week, in which the group delivered a letter to the mayor signed by more than 100 businesses and community organizations. Last week’s protest was conducted as part of a Global Day of Action Against Uber,” which saw actions in cities such as New Orleans; Brussels, Belgium; and Melbourne, Australia. Uber has faced intense backlash across the world, and has, in at least two instances, continued operation in spite of legal bans.

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Tom Ladendorf is an American writer and musician who lives in Cologne, Germany, and a former In These Times editorial intern.
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