San Jose cabbies extend airport protest

Hundreds of taxi drivers wouldn’t provide rides again Tuesday at Mineta San Jose International Airport and took their strike citywide as part of a protest calling for equal regulations for ride-booking service drivers.

After a walkout Monday, about 300 drivers have continued to halt service at the airport, where they drove today between terminals A and B but did not pick up or drop off passengers, San Jose Airport Taxi Driver Association president Shakur Buni said.

The airport has limousines and door-to-door shuttle services available for passengers who need a ride today, according to a tweet from the airport’s account @FlySJC.

Buni said the group plans to also drive and protest outside San Jose City Hall today before they attend the 1:30 p.m. City Council meeting, which includes a discussion on revising policies for online ride-booking companies such as Uber and Lyft operating at the airport.

The drivers are calling for all ride-booking service drivers to be fingerprinted and undergo background checks and to be charged the same fees as taxis for airport trips, he said.

Buni has worked as a taxi driver for Yellow Checker Cab for 20 years.

In June, the council approved a pilot program that required ride-booking service drivers to participate in criminal background checks, send in fingerprints, and attain a business license and permits to conduct business at the airport.

However, no ride-booking service company applied for the program, which prompted the city to explore changes, airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes said.

The council will consider a model used in San Diego that allows the companies to choose one of three methods for a monthly audit on 1 percent of their drivers, Barnes said.

The ride-booking drivers will also need to comply with background checks from the California Public Utilities Commission, which does not require fingerprinting, according to Barnes.

If the program is approved, the airport will look into operating the same standard for taxi drivers, Barnes said.

Not having required background checks and fingerprints of ride-booking service drivers poses a public safety concern, said Diana Bailey, operations manager at Green Cab in San Jose.

Airport officials have said they will lose money if they don’t have ride-booking services available for passengers, but Bailey argued that allowing the companies and charging them less per trip compared to taxis would result in lost earnings for the airport.

All ride-booking service drivers should be subject to the audits in addition to alcohol and drug testing, Bailey said.

Green Cab, the second-largest taxi company in the city, employs about 120 drivers, according to Bailey.