With contract signed, fears of taxi strike abate (LVRJ) March 12, 2013 at 8:52 pm Tim O’Reiley, Las Vegas Review-Journal The prospect of a spreading taxi drivers strike appeared to abate as a union official accepted a contract offer with Frias Transportation Management, Las Vegas’ largest cab company. Two members of the negotiating committee with United Steelworkers Union Local 711A said they received an email Tuesday from a national union officer based in Albuquerque, N.M., informing them that district director Robert LaVenture had signed Frias’ “last, best and final offer.” The terms were formally submitted Friday after a negotiating session overseen by a federal mediator ended March 5 with no agreement. Executives at Frias and Steelworkers officials in both Albuquerque and the Pittsburgh head office did not return calls seeking comment. But some of the local bargaining team expressed outrage that the contract was enacted without a vote by members. “This is unbelievable,” said Gebeyehu Bekele. “Everybody is wondering what kind of union this is. I don’t say this is a good or bad contract, but people have to vote no matter.” Yonas Tessema added, “The union is supposed to be for the workers. Here, the corporation is not our enemy. The union is our enemy.” They said they would convene a Tuesday night session of the Action Team, a committee of about two dozen drivers, to discuss the situation. But labor law and union rules work against unauthorized strikes, not only depriving participants of union-furnished strike pay but putting them at risk of being fired. Frias, through five brands, holds nearly 30 percent of the operating permits, known as medallions, in the local market. Yellow Checker Star, whose drivers walked out Feb. 3, holds one-fourth. According to union estimates, Frias has 1,800 drivers, with nearly 1,100 belonging to the Steelworkers. Anecdotal evidence has shown that the Yellow Checker Star strike made no visible impact on the all-important visitor industry. Through a spokeswoman, Nevada Taxicab Authority administrator Charles Harvey said no service shortcomings emerged during the three-day NASCAR races that ended Sunday. Harvey issued 20 temporary medallions last week to each of the 13 cab brands not owned by Yellow Checker Star, including 100 to Frias, to help compensate for the lower capacity. However, many in the industry agreed that simultaneous Frias and Yellow Checker Star strikes could have made it difficult for tourists to get to and from McCarran International Airport and venues around town. The previous Frias contract expired Sept. 11. The deal, which watered down the role seniority plays in matters such as bidding on shifts and cars, was voted down. But infighting also plagued Local 711A last year, causing the international union to take over its operation. The new contract will run until Sept. 11, 2015. The 37-page document outlining the contract included a lengthy list of changes, such as initiating a 401(k) plan, adding three personal days off, reimbursing drivers for gasoline for the first time, reducing funeral leave from five to two days for deaths that occur in Clark County and setting the annual bonus at 2 percent of wages plus 1 percent for a good driving record. Frias paid 3 percent four years ago but reduced it to 1 percent in stages last year. Drivers until now have kept 50 percent of the fares they collect during a shift minus several expenses, including fuel. The new pact raises the commission in steps to a maximum 55 percent depending on annual income. For example, anyone earning up to $32,499 will receive the 50 percent, while it will take at least $42,500 to hit the 55 percent cap. In the past, company executives have portrayed this as an incentive to reward the most productive drivers. But drivers view it as a provision that will stimulate more long hauling, or running up the fares by taking unsuspecting passengers on out-of-the-way routes, particularly between McCarran and the Strip.