"Only the courts can decide if this is legal," Thigpen said.
Thigpen and Oneto met July 25 with Lena Gomes, one of Daly's legislative assistants, to discuss how the Board of Supervisors might take action. "We are creating a resolution urging Yellow Cab not to charge the drivers the fee," Gomes told us. "Yellow Cab appears to be trying to change their drivers classification to avoid certain financial responsibilities. This is one of their strategies."
If Yellow Cab succeeds in its plan, other cab companies may follow suit. "Right now they're just hanging back to see what Yellow Cab will do," said Han, who estimates that Yellow Cab stands to gain at least $2 million per year from this policy. For Han, not knowing what the company will do with the money is unnerving. "They should be investing it in a health care plan for drivers. But I can only assume the money will be used to buy a sailboat for the top management."
While Hazelkorn said that drivers are "100 percent opposed to this kind of extortion," some disagree. Tariq Mehmood, a Yellow Cab driver for eight years, believes most drivers would rather be independent contractors "because of the freedom it provides us to set our own hours." Mehmood said the UTW's fight against Yellow Cab is just another ploy to bankrupt the company, which "would be devastating to drivers. I would love to not pay anything not even gate fees and still be an independent contractor, but that's not the reality."
Regardless of how they feel about the policy, some have already begun making payments, while others are quietly saving money just in case. Han refuses to do either, hoping that Yellow Cab can be defeated if enough drivers join him. But 80 to 90 percent of Yellow Cab drivers are immigrants, Han points out, and many are still unacquainted with their rights. "They are afraid to defy the company," he said. "Yellow Cab is setting a trap for those who will fall for it."