Recently, a federal judge in Chicago refused to dismiss the case, ruling that the extent to which the City of Chicago controls cabbies’ day-to-day activities and livelihoods may be enough to create an employment relationship. If the cabbies prevail, it will provoke a major shift in the way cab drivers, and perhaps other indirect employees, are treated.
Cabbies describe how the City hounds the drivers, much like a micromanaging supervisor. According to Callahan, officials from the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection or police issue tickets for the tiniest violation, such as chipped paint on a vehicle. And the City keeps its hands in drivers’ pockets. Fares typically come in $7–10 increments. But the City takes drivers’ money in $100 increments. You can guess who comes out on top.
The Cabbies for Justice lawsuit is a marked break in strategy from past strikes, and if successful, the lawsuit’s impact would be enormous. At a minimum, it would provide several years of back pay from the City, belatedly compensating drivers who received less than the minimum wage. The City would also have to ensure that drivers earn minimum wage and overtime. It could do so either through modifications of the fare and lease formulas, or it could simply supplement cabbies’ earnings to ensure that they complied with state and federal laws. Drivers would gain the protections of state and federal laws that virtually every other employee of the City enjoys. If they seek to unionize, their efforts will be protected by federal law. If they experience race or sex discrimination, they have a mechanism to seek redress. If they are sexually harassed, they need not respond in a “cordial” manner, or risk unemployment.
[The Nation Report]