Drivers for the Yellow-Checker-Star taxi companies have authorized union leaders to call a strike as early as Dec. 16 over their ongoing contract dispute.
After a vote completed late Thursday, a representative of the Industrial Technical Professional Employees Union said the vote to authorize a strike was “overwhelming,” but the union would not disclose vote counts or percentages of voter approval.
A contract extension between the drivers and YCS, the second-largest taxi company group in Southern Nevada, is in effect through Dec. 15.
Talks between union and company bargaining teams are scheduled Wednesday and Thursday.
Sam Moffitt, chief shop steward for YCS and a leader of ITPE Local 4873, said a greater number of members voted to authorize the strike than voted to reject YCS management’s last contract offer, which was endorsed by the union negotiating team.
In that vote, which concluded Nov. 30, Moffitt said, more than half of the union’s membership of more than 1,200 voted, with 80 percent rejecting the deal. Company officials, knowing the union negotiating team backed the deal, said they were “stunned by the results.”
After the results were announced, YCS management issued a statement speculating that a low turnout, which it estimated at 35 percent of those eligible, resulted in the contract vote failing.
Drivers have worked under contract extensions since the end of October, when their original agreements expired.
Moffitt said opposition to pay and shift policies resulted in the rejection of the contract. He said despite increasing meter revenue for the company, most drivers barely make minimum wage, and drivers have had to appeal to government regulators to receive the hourly minimum wage.
Moffitt said tensions mounted after supervisors directed some drivers to remove campaign buttons supporting the union’s position. Drivers were threatened with disciplinary action if they were seen wearing a button that says “I will strike,” Moffitt said.
Moffitt said the wearing buttons is a common union tactic. In past contract negotiations, drivers wore buttons that said “Fair contract.”
Meanwhile, another union, United Steelworkers Local 711-A, has been in contract talks with Frias Transportation Management, the largest taxi company group in Southern Nevada, since Sept. 11. Those talks have been complicated by internal squabbles within the union.
Proposed changes in the seniority policy and how drivers are allowed to choose their shifts is at issue in talks between the Steelworkers and Frias management.
Fearing the prospect of the two largest cab operators facing strikes, the Nevada Taxicab Authority voted in an emergency meeting in late October to allow other companies to operate more cabs in the event of strikes at YCS and Frias.