United Taxi Cooperative is built on a history of labor organizing by UTWSD, formed a decade ago to break the medallion system in San Diego so driver-workers could drive and earn for themselves. But over the past decade, UTWSD has had to switch focus to the survival of the taxi business, decimated by Uber and Lyft. Too many still see Uber and Lyft as innovators, but much of the success of these firms stems from venture-capital fueled lobbying to carve themselves out of taxi regulation. Under regulations they have shaped, Uber and Lyft are able to exploit workers through wage manipulation and punitive surveillance, and simultaneously exploit customers by manipulating prices.
In response, San Diego taxi drivers have lowered their prices while still submitting to the city-regulated price cap that protects customers. Mikaiil Hussein, President of UTWSD, and Peter Zschiesche, a long-standing unionist and UTWSD board member, developed a vision of a “public option” for point to point transportation, regulated as public infrastructure in the public interest. As we championed the vision locally, its shape shifted. We learned that people need to connect to the public transit network. They also need wheelchair accessible rides on-demand. Our cooperative could fill these transportation gaps. Like Uber and Lyft, we will also have an app.