FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A long-simmering feud between Broward taxi drivers and limousine and vans drivers who service Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport came to a boil Tuesday with allegations of racial and economic discrimination. At a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the taxi holding lot adjacent to the airport, Daniel McCarthy, president of the Alliance of Broward Cab Drivers, a small association of independent drivers, said primarily black taxi drivers get fewer fares than the racially mixed drivers of vans and limos.
As an act of solidarity, about a dozen cab drivers formed a single line and snaked past the arrival gates without picking up passengers Tuesday afternoon.
McCarthy alleged that Jesse Gaddis, a man who owns two private dispatch companies that service the airport, favors limo and van drivers over taxi drivers. 'Black taxi drivers get the shorter runs and [the mostly] white van and limo drivers get the longer runs – which generate more money,' said McCarthy, who is white.
Gaddis said he was insulted by McCarthy's allegations. ``First of all, passengers who come to the airport make the determination of what is the cheapest or the most comfortable way to get to their destination, not the dispatcher. And second, most of the drivers here are black or Hispanic immigrants. So to twist that as racial discrimination is insulting.
``I'm 76 years old and been in this business since 1960 and the last thing I would do is discriminate against the backbone of my business.'
Generally, airport shared van services are seen as a more cost-effective means for travelers to get to their destination because they offer flat rates and riders share the cost. Taxis operate on meters.
Airport executives believe the problem to be economic, not racial. Michael Nonnemacher, operations director for the airport, said trying to address equity between taxi drivers and van and limo drivers has always been tricky.
'Travelers who arrive at the airport are given various choices – all which are posted – and they make the decision of what is best for them,' Nonnemacher said.
He said that the airport is preparing a recommendation to be presented this summer to the Broward County Commission for the airport to take all dispatch operations in house.
In the meantime, McCarthy filed a complaint on May 13 with the Federal Aviation Administration alleging unfair business practices by the Broward County Aviation Department. The complaint “alleges that the Broward County Commission renewed a ground transportation agreement with an existing service company [Gaddis' companies] without a competitive bidding process.' Mildred Strickland, civil rights officer for the FAA, responded to McCarty on June 12.
She stated in her letter that the FAA has initiated an investigation.
'This fight has been going on for a long time,' said taxi driver Gerlyn Cadet, who says that taxi drivers make less money than van or limo drivers because of the dispatching policies.
But van and limo drivers disagree, claiming that taxi drivers make more money in the long run because they get the shorter, and more frequent, runs.
'There is no race issue here, it is a business issue,' said limo driver Shirley Negron.
Source: Miami Herald