Taxi drivers at Sea-Tac Airport express their growing frustration with poor working conditions and unjust terminations.
Taxi drivers exerted their collective power at Sea-Tac Airport today by staging an hour-long work stoppage that sent Port officials and the drivers’ dispatch company reeling.
At approximately 9:30 a.m., drivers in the airport taxi lot got out of their cabs, raised signs, and began chanting, “Unfair, unfair!” Cab service for arriving passengers slowed to a trickle.
"I have to fight for my freedom."
“I work 16 hours to try to pay my bills. When I got home yesterday, I almost fell down,” said Alamu Tegegn. “I said to myself, ‘If I continue like this, I will die.’ So I have to fight for my freedom.”
The strike represented the culmination of months of frustration over humiliating working conditions and the unjust termination of union supporter, Ali Sugule.
On August 8, Sugule had criticized the airport dispatch company, Eastside For Hire, in public testimony at a Port Commission meeting. His dispatch services were revoked later that week.
“Our brother Ali has been suspended unjustly and now he hasn’t worked, he hasn’t been able to support his five kids. This is unfair retaliation,” said Mustafe Ismail, who joined with the other drivers in calling for Sugule to be reinstated immediately.
The drivers raised a number of additional concerns that have been communicated on numerous occasions to Port officials but have not been addressed. These include unsanitary conditions in the airport bathroom designated for drivers and the failure of Eastside to refund dispatch fees to drivers when required under the drivers’ contract.
Instead of taking steps to address these concerns, Eastside responded by revoking the dispatch services of at least ten drivers who participated in the action. Our union’s legal team immediately filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Eastside is unjustly retaliating against the drivers for participating in protected activity.
“The message that we’re trying to send to Eastside and the Port is that we want equality and justice. We want the Port to do the right thing, and if they don’t, we have the right to strike,” Ismail said.