Drivers for Cambridge's biggest cab company, Yellow Cab, yesterday threatened "drastic action"--possibly a strike--unless the city intervenes and forces the company owner to pay for the cab drivers' gasoline.
The taxi drivers, who say their gross earnings have decreased 10 per cent since Yellow Cab owner Arthur Goldberg forced them to begin paying for their own gas a week ago, will meet with the Cambridge City Council in a special hearing Monday evening, Mayor Francis H. Duehay '55 announced last night.
Cambridge Licensing Board officials refused to overturn the owner's gas policy at a hearing yesterday afternoon. Licensing Board officials called the dispute an "employer-employee" problem and suggested that contract negotiations between the company and the drivers discuss the issue.
"We have to make this into a political, not a legal question," Duehay told the cabbies, explaining that "exposure" of their complaints might be the drivers' only hope.
Before yesterday's board meeting, an official of the drivers' union, Teamsters Local 496, predicted "drastic action" from the cabbies if the board refused to overturn the gas charge. "That would mean a strike," Peter Lowber, a spokesman for the drivers, said.
For a week, cabbies have been buying gasoline at private service stations, receiving in return a reimbursement of 10 per cent of their total fares collected.
"According to our calculations, that should be enough to pay for the gasoline," Goldberg said after the meeting. Before last week, Goldberg pumped gas free on his lot for the cabbies.
Goldberg said the old policy was discontinued after the Gibbs Oil Co. cut his allotment 55 per cent.
Asked why Yellow Cab didn't simply reimburse cabbies for all money spent for gas instead of limiting them to 10 per cent of the fares collected, Goldberg said he was afraid drivers would waste gas "taking their wives and girlfriends to parties" or idling their engines at taxi stands.
Cab driver Lowber told the licensing board, "Our livelihood is threatened. We need the right to earn a living, and that's what is being taken away from us for the privilege of profiteering," Lowber said.
Driver James Lyle said that city cabs averages only about ten miles to the gallon of gas. He produced figures showing that the average driver has suffered a 10 per cent reduction in earnings since the law went into effect, while the company has collected 7 per cent "in windfall savings" since it stopped providing gas.
Goldberg called the figures "guesswork," but told reporters they would have to wait six weeks before he would open his books for their inspection. "I will certainly allow journalists to examine my records at that point, but it is too early now to get any firm idea," Goldberg said.
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