About 200 taxi cab drivers staged a strike Monday at Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport, bypassing passengers and leaving them in the rain, because they are upset that the city council is likely to back off cracking down on ride-sharing companies.
Shakur Buni, president of the San Jose Airport Taxi Driver Association, said the drivers walked off the job by 9 a.m. He said the effort was to get the mayor's attention because the cabbies want a level-playing field when it comes to shuttling passengers to and from the airport. San Jose's airport is the only major airport in the Bay Area without ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft.
"We want the rules to be fair to hardworking drivers," Buni said. "It's killing the industry. The taxi industry will be out of business in four or three weeks if this council recommendation goes forward."
Initially the drivers planned to go to City Hall. Instead the cabbies drove past the airport terminals without stopping, honking their horns and refusing to pick up passengers during Monday's thunderstorms.
Some customers understood and sympathized with the taxi drivers. "I get it," passenger Cordina Wong said, just before getting into an Uber. "They have a lot of insurance they have to pay."
Others didn't. "Taxis are way too expensive," Dana Joy said, taking the side of the ride-sharing companies. "I would much rather take an Uber any day. This is ridiculous."
In June, San Jose city officials decided that drivers working for ride-sharing companies including Uber and Lyft must submit finger prints to get a business license. But no drivers from these ride-sharing companies agreed to sign up to shuttle passengers to and from Silicon Valley's airport, the Mercury News reported. And the companies called the rules too strict, adding that no other major California airport requires this type of stringent finger-printing.
Because of that, on Tuesday, the city council will consider eliminating mandatory fingerprints for all drivers. Instead, they’re considering giving random monthly audits of 1 percent of the drivers, the Mercury News reported. The audits would verify the driver's identity, review their criminal history and look for any outstanding warrants.
The proposal Tuesday also would get rid of another rule contested by ride-sharing companies -- vehicle age and mileage restrictions that barred drivers with cars older than 10 years or more than 400,000 miles. The city instead will rely on vehicle inspections performed by police for taxis and the California Public Utilities Commission for ride-share companies.
Carl Guardino, the CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, has been pushing San Jose leaders to back off the rules for Uber and Lyft drivers, the Mercury News reported. Guardino's wife is a lobbyist for Lyft.
While the CPUC requires background checks for drivers of ride-sharing companies, cities may establish the rules for ground transportation at their airports.
Uber representatives told NBC Bay Area on Monday that they think this is a step in the right direction, and they are "hopeful" about working with the city council to operate under a revised permit proposed by the airport.