Vancouver taxi driver uprising has parallels to calls for reform in Portland

Last week’s unprecedented rally and march by nearly 200 Vancouver taxi drivers to demand better wages and access to licences has a direct parallel in Portland.

The Vancouver drivers set out their proposals in a carefully-argued brief they presented to me last week for circulation to Mayor and council.

Like Vancouver’s taxi drivers, who compare their lease fees and long hours to “enslavement,” Portland’s lease drivers — who do not own a car or company shares — have also formed a co-op to push their case with Mayor Sam Adams. A detailed study of their working conditions confirms their claims of effective wages below the minimum and a general absence of decent, safe working conditions.

The parallels between Vancouver and Portland are striking — declining driver earnings, complex licensing provisions, a driver co-op — but solutions here will have to come from Victoria, not just Vancouver City Hall.

As this much-cited 1999 report to the provincial government by arbitrator Stan Lanyon makes clear, these problems are long-standing in the taxi sector and simple licence deregulation is more likely to hurt the cause of taxi customers than help them.

Some of Lanyon’s recommendations were implemented in 2001 and further changes came in 2003. But in the taxi world, all things old seem to become new again.

Drivers are once again demanding chance and deserve to be heard.