“They do the same work as we do, but they make more money and have less oversight."
That was the complaint of Cambridge cab driver Chando Souffrent, who joined his fellow cabbies Monday for a day-long strike and demonstration in front of city hall.
“We want them out if they won’t be regulated better," said Souffrent, who has driven a cab for 22 years. This is all out of greed. We have set fares, they do not. They charge what they want. We are in crisis. Serious crisis.”
The Cambridge cabbies went on strike at 4 a.m. on Monday, protesting the “free rides” Uber and Lyft drivers seem to get when it comes to regulation, resulting in a financial headlock for Hackney drivers.
They claim that Uber and Lyft have decimated their business, cutting profits in half due to a void in proper insurance, background checks and training for their drivers.
The one-day strike brought large crowds in front of Cambridge City Hall and conducted a rolling protest, which shut down the Mass. Ave. Bridge during Monday’s morning rush hour.
The cabbies claim they have lost 65 percent of their business to Uber and Lyft across the board. In Boston, you have 1825 hackney licenses. 267 in Cambridge. Uber has 17,000 cars in the area. While the cities regulate cab meters, Uber can set whatever price they want. As a result, cabbies claim that they have taken a 65 percent hit in business
“[Uber and Lyft] get a free lunch,” former Cambridge Mayor Anthony Galluccio said. “Should I be able to sell bottled water or Pepsi outside of a 7-11? Should you be able to sell gas in front of a gas station? No. These guys all have mortgaged their houses, worked 20-some-odd years for their medallions. Someone comes in and doesn’t need the medallions? That’s a free lunch and that’s not what America is about.”
The groups protesting outside of Cambridge City Hall were not calling for a full-on exile of Lyft and Uber, but for legislators to establish an equal playing field.
“If Uber’s coming in, they should buy medallions and pay these guys $700-$800,000 dollars for the medallions,” Galluccio said. “This is not fair one bit. It’s not about service quality. I’m not concerned with safety. I’m worried about how unfair this is. Americans have always stood for fairness. Many of these guys are first generation Americans who came here to work their rear ends off to earn honest money.”