Capital Times

April 23, 1975

One Taxi Company’s Troubles Are Financial Bonanza for Others

By John Haug

Of the Capital Times Staff

            There is apparently both a dark and light side to the three-week-old strike at Yellow Cab Co., 627 E. Mifflin St.

            While Yellow is threatening to sell out because of the labor dispute, at least one other cab company in town says the strike has doubled its business.

            Raymond Veloff, owner of Checker Cab Co., says he is planning a sizeable expansion of his 30-vehicle fleet to accommodate the new business.

            Veloff said his cab business “has doubled” since the Yellow strike began. Checker also runs an airport limousine service. That business has remained constant, Veloff said.

            Asked if his purchase of more cabs means he thinks the Yellow strike could be a long one, Veloff said, “I think it could. Anyway, we have to assume it may and we have to accommodate the new business.”

            Approximately 80 employes, mostly members of Teamsters Local 695, have been on strike against Yellow since April 1. A few cabs operated early in the strike, but none have gone out in the past two weeks.

            The company and the union met briefly Tuesday with Howard Bellman of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. Both sides claimed no progress following the meeting.

            After the session Robert Kilkelly, attorney for the company, said Yellow will be forced to liquidate its assets if the union does not accept the firm’s economic proposals.

            “The company is making plans to set up a plan for liquidation,” Kilkelly said, “Now it’s up to the union.” Kilkelly will meet with the company accountant later this week to finalize the plan, he said.

            Robert Rutland, Teamster secretary-treasurer, said he views Kllkelly’s statements “as a threat.” Asked if he thought the company was serious, Rutland said, “I don’t know, but we’re going to give them a chance to prove if they are.”

            The company recently placed ads for replacement drivers in the local media. It has also filed court charges against the union for alleged illegal picket line activities.

            The company has “claimed poverty,” telling the union that because of a poor economy it has no money for wage increases. It has proposed to lower the present commission rate for drivers and eliminate other fringe benefits.

            Commenting on the company’s offer Rutland said, “The union has made a substantial reduction in its offer on wages. The company didn’t even listen. They said the union has to accept a decrease from the present. That is totally unacceptable.”

            Rutland also said if the company has money to take out ads for “scab” drivers in newspapers and on the radio, and to file court charges, it has enough money to settle with the union.

            Yellow, with a fleet of 38 cabs, is the largest of four taxi companies in Madison. The others are Red Cab Co., 29 cabs; Badger Cab Co., 26; and Checker, 30 cabs and limousines.

            Yellow and Checker are metered cabs. Red and Badger are zone. Yellow has referred most of its customers to Checker throughout the strike.

            George Cnare, an owner of Badger, said his firm has not seen a big increase in business because of differences in the two types of services.

            Zone cabs are cheaper than meter cabs, but they are also multiple loading, meaning they pick up more than one passenger. Meter cab service is more direct, but more expensive.

            A dispatcher-driver at Red Cab Co. said the firm’s business “is definitely up.” He identified himself as a former driver for Yellow and said he has noticed that some former Yellow customers are now taking Red Cabs.

 

Wisconsin State Journal

April 23, 1975

Yellow Cab May Liquidate if Labor Troubles Continue

            The Yellow Cab Co., 627 E. Mifflin St., may liquidate if it doesn’t get its way in a labor dispute, according to Robert Kilkelly, attorney for the company.

            The company has been virtually shut down since the start of a three-week strike by its estimated 80 employes, most of them taxi drivers. They are represented by Teamsters Local 695.

            In a mediation session Tuesday with Howard Bellman, hearing examiner for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Council, the union agreed to lower its demand for a

driver commission of 50 per cent to 44 per cent of the fare. Drivers have been getting a 41 per cent commission, said Robert Rutland, secretary-treasurer of the local.

            Kilkelly said that unless the drivers accept cuts in wages and fringe benefits this year, the company cannot survive.

            No further mediation sessions were scheduled, and Kilkelly said the company will soon begin setting a timetable for liquidation.

            Yellow Cab. with a fleet of 38 cabs, is the largest of four taxi cab companies in Madison. The others are Red Cab Co., with a fleet of 29 cabs; Badger Cab Co., with 26: and Checker, with 19. A Checker spokesman said the company plans to buy more cabs as a result of increased business since the Yellow Cab strike.

 

Capital Times

April 23, 1975

 ‘Local Nite’ Film Program

            Work by Madison area filmmakers will be presented Thurs day at 8 p.m. in “Local Nite” at the Madison Art Center, 720 E. Gorham St. There is an admission charge.

            Films scheduled include “Dairy Queens,” a comedy about Wisconsin cows by Chuck Johannsen; “Sleeze,” Brenda Buratti’s look at desperate frustrated women; “Chicken Salad Soup,” in which filmmaker Robin Carnes deals with soup and the Yellow Cab strike; “An Indian Pilgrimage: Randeva” by Michael Camerini; “Everyday People —Parts I and II” by Michael Paggie; and the major premiere of one additional film, “a surprise for the Madison Art Center audiences,” says Paggie, the Art Center’s film coordinator.

 

Capital Times

April 29, 1975

Yellow Cab Building Is For Sale; 9 Taxis Sold

            The Yellow Cab building at 627 E. Mifflin St. has been put up for sale and nine of the firm’s 38 cabs have been sold to other cab companies, an attorney for Yellow said Monday.

            Attorney Robert Kilkelly said the company is going ahead with plans to liquidate as a result of not being able to reach a contract agreement with striking employes, members of Teamsters Local 695.

            Picketing continued at the facility this morning. Employes on the picket line said they are taking a “wait and see” approach until they can determine the true intentions of the company.

            Meanwhile, Kilkelly said he has received a copy of a complaint issued against the union by the National Labor Relations Board citing 23 instances of alleged illegal picket line activities. Hearings on the complaint will be held in May, Kilkelly said.

 

Wisconsin State Journal

April 30, 1975

Yellow Cab Is Shutting Down

            The Yellow Cab Co., 627 E. Mifflin St. is going ahead with liquidation plans and has put its building up for sale, according to Robert Kilkelly, attorney for the company.

            The liquidation is the result of the company’s inability to reach a contract agreement with its 80 striking employes through the Teamsters Local 695.

            The four-week strike has virtually shut down the company’s operations, and the firm has sold nine of its 38 cabs to other cab companies, Kilkelly said.

            Bargaining broke down last week when the company said it could not continue business if its employes did not accept cuts in wages and fringe benefits won in the last contract.

            Kilkelly said charges of intimidation and illegal picket line activities filed by the company against the union have been investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.

            Hearings on the NLRB complaint are scheduled for 10a.m., May 19, in Madison.

 

Capital Times

May 7, 1975

Yellow Cab’s Sale Talk Deception, Strikers Say

By John Haug

Of the Capital Times Staff

            Is the Yellow Cab Company serious about selling out, or is its talk of liquidation just a smoke-screened attempt to end a strike by busting the employe union?

            Attorneys for the company say the talk is serious. As proof, they point to the fact that the facility at 627 E. Mifflin St. has been put up for sale and nine cabs from the fleet already have been sold.

            But striking employes, members of Teamsters Local 695 say it may all be just smokescreen. They say the building was for sale before the strike, and the sale of nine cabs is normal turnover for the company in a year.

            Employes have been on strike at the facility since April I. Following their last bargaining session April 22, the company announced that it would liquidate if the union did not accept its last offer.

            That offer was the same economically as previous offers and amounted to a decrease in benefits from the previous contract.

            The proposal was made, the company says, because it has no money for wage and fringe benefit increases.

            In the meantime, Kilkelly said the company is serious and is going ahead with plans to liquidate. Other than the previous nine cabs, no more have been sold, but the company continues its attempts to negotiate a sale, he said.

            Kilkelly admitted the building was up for sale before the strike, but said it was an attempt by the owner to find a smaller building in hopes of cutting down on expenses, particularly rent.

            Ironically, the building is owned by the same man who owns the company, Kenneth C. Ossmann. Thus, Ossmann, in attempting to find smaller quarters and pay less rent, would in effect be paying himself less.

            Concerning the recent sale of nine cabs, Kilkelly denied this was normal turnover. Turnover means the old cabs would be replaced, he said, and the company hasn’t bought new cabs since 1972.

            Local 695 Secretary-Treasurer Robert Rutland said he isn’t sure the company’s liquidation announcement is a smokescreen.

            Rutland likened it more to a poker game, and said if the company is playing poker, “we’re calling their hand.”

            In a related matter, Rutland has criticized local media for supposedly not giving both sides of the Yellow Cab strike story.

            In a letter to all media, Rutland states: “The media has basically been unsympathetic to the workers’ plight. For whatever reasons, the union’s side of the story remains largely untold. Realizing that the media’s interests and those of the workers are usually not in agreement, we nevertheless would like to give our side of the story.”

            Rutland goes on to charge that the deeper issues underlying the strike center around Ossmann’s hatred of the union since it bargained its first contract with the company in 1974.

            Rutland questions how the company could operate in Madison for 40 years and run into financial difficulties only the past year and a half.

            Finally, Rutland criticizes working conditions at Yellow Gab and says a major goal of the strike, aside from money, is to make Yellow “a pleasant place to work, not a place to go to work and be humiliated every day.”

 

Capital Times

May 13, 1975

HELLO Wisconsin

by MILES McMILLIN

            A MADISON RESIDENT called at my office Monday to discuss what can be done to interest Amtrak in coming through this city. During the course of our discussion she told of an incident which makes one wonder if Madison isn’t becoming a jungle. She was taking her 90-year-old husband to a doctor in a Yellow Cab whose service they have used for years. She noticed a car trailing the cab and harassing the driver. It was manned by striking Teamsters.

            WHEN THEY reached the doctor’s office a man jumped out of the strikers’ car and opened the door of her cab and ordered her and her husband out, meanwhile shouting threats to the driver, about “taking care of you when we get you alone.” She got out of the cab and asked the striker to walk far enough away so she could talk out of the hearing of her husband. She explained the situation and then engaged in an argument of some 15 minutes after which the striker agreed to let her take her husband home in the Yellow Cab. She said she was not threatened overtly. I asked if she felt threatened. She responded that she would not order another Yellow Cab because of her concern for her own safety and that of her husband. Is this what Madison has come to?

 

Capital Times

May 30, 1975

Checker Will Lower Rates In Exchange for Monopoly

            The Yellow Cab Company strike has made business so good for the only other metered cab firm in town that the Checker Taxi Company has offered to reduce its rates.

            But the reduced rate offer, made by Checker general manager R. D. Veloff in a letter distributed to the Transportation Commission Thursday night, contains a couple of conditions. The conditions are that Yellow go out of business completely and that the City Council license no more metered cab outfits in the city.

            Late last month, following a bargaining session, officials of Yellow announced that the company would liquidate if striking members of Teamsters Local 695 did not accept the last offer. The strike began April 1.

            If that happens, and the council permits no new firms to enter the meter taxi business, Checker will both increase its taxi fleet and cut rates “slightly,” Veloff said. “The Checker Cab Co. will be in a position to lower its cab rates as long as the present situation of being the only metered cab company is permanent,” Veloff’s letter said.

            “Due to the closing of Yellow Cab Company our taxi business has doubled. As a result the company is showing a profit and the drivers are able to earn a living.

            “If this continues, there is no question to my mind that I will be able to lower the cab rates so the customers can get the benefit of our increased business,” he said.

            But Madison can support only one metered cab operation and if the Yellow strike is settled, or the council licenses a new cab company, his offer will be withdrawn, Veloff said.

            Yellow general manager Kenneth Osmond referred all questions about his labor situation to his attorney who could not be reached.

            But other sources said that the Yellow threat to liquidate still stands if Teamsters reject what the source said will be “one last offer.” It could not be learned when the offer will be formally made.

            Two persons have filed applications for taxi licenses but both of the applicants project very small operations. One proposes having two cabs and the other seven. Checker operates about 30 cabs and the Yellow operation was about 50 cabs.

            Cab licenses, which cost $50 for the company and $20 for each operating taxi, are issued for one year beginning July 1.

            Recommendations on license issuance is made by the Transportation Commission after a public hearing. Final approval of the licenses is up to the City Council.

 

Wisconsin State Journal

May 31, 1975

Checker to Lower Cab Fares--If

            The Checker Cab Co., 101 S. Baldwin St., has offered to lower its fares if the City Transportation Commission in effect gives it a corner on the market in Madison.

            R. D. Veloff, general manager of Checker, made the offer in a letter to the commission that was distributed, but not acted upon, Thursday night.

            The letter stops short of asking the commission to refuse taxi licenses to any new firms, but makes that and the liquidation of Yellow Cab Co. the two conditions on which the offer is based.

            “The commission has the power to protect business,” Veloff said. “There isn’t enough business in Madison for additional companies.”

            Although some might call it a monopoly, Veloff said, “we’re not going to rape the public, we’re going to lower our customer rates.”

            He said the Teamsters Local 695 strike against the Yellow Cab Co., 627 E. Mifflin St., which has virtually shut the firm down since Apr. 1, has doubled business for Checker.

            “The Checker Cab Co. will be in a position to lower its cab rates as long as the present situation of being the only metered cab company is permanent,” the letter said.

            But if the Yellow Cab strike is settled or if the City Council licenses a new cab company, the offer will be withdrawn, Veloff said.

            Yellow Cab owner Kenneth Ossmann has threatened to liquidate his company unless the Teamsters accept his last contract offer, which consisted of a cut in wages and fringe benefits. But liquidation plans have not yet been carried through.

            Yellow was the largest company in town, with 80 employes and 38 cabs. Checker has grown in the two months since the strike began to 80 employes and 30 cabs, Voloff said.

 

Wisconsin State Journal

June 7, 1975

Checker Cab Drops Fares

            The Checker Cab Co. is dropping its fares by what amounts to about 5 per cent, Ray Veloff, owner of the firm said Friday.

            Veloff said the cab company will drop its initial charge from 80 cents to 70 cents.

            The average fare, he said, is about $2 and will drop to $1.90 with the rate decrease.

            Checker’s business has picked up markedly in recent months, with Yellow Cab out of operation due to a strike.

            The fare decrease is the direct result of a doubling of ridership, Veloff said, which has allowed his firm to more than offset increased insurance, fuel, and labor costs.

            “I don’t look at this as an ending point.” Veloff said of the rate drop. “Hopefully, this decrease will increase our business even further.

            “Right now, we can absorb this. If you get volume, you can do that. Hopefully, if we can keep this volume up, we can reduce it even further.”

            The reduction will take effect in some cabs over the weekend, Veloff said. He said the change will be made in all cab meters by Tuesday.

 

Capital Times

June 16, 1975

Yellow, Teamsters Still Talking

            Yellow Cab Company is continuing to bargain with Teamsters Local 695 despite the fact the company had threatened to liquidate if union drivers failed to accept its contract proposals.

            About 50 drivers and dispatchers have been on strike against the firm since April 1. The two sides met a week ago in a session that the union describes as producing no significant movement.

             “‘They told us of some changes they could live with and we told them what we thought we could live with,” Robert Rutland, secretary-treasurer of 695 said of the session.

            But there was no movement on the issue of wages by either side, Rutland said. The company has proposed a wage cut, saying it cannot afford present wage rates. The union has demanded a wage increase.

            According to Rutland, the company offered new proposals on disciplinary procedures and insurance, but the offers amounted to the same things the union had in their previous contract.

            Rutland said the union made it dear that the wage issue is the main hangup in the dispute, and before movement can be made other areas “we have to get wages out of the way first.”

            The company’s proposals in included reinstituting a warning letter before an employe can be fired, and paying 50 per cent for married persons, 60 per cent for singles of an employe’s health insurance premium.

            Rutland said the union had “come down considerably in its wage demand” at the last meeting between the two sides in April and that it hasn’t changed its position since then.

            Company attorney Robert Kilkelly was unavailable for comment on the latest bargaining session. Rutland said picketing at the facility at 627 E. Mifflin St. is continuing.

 

Capital Times

July 11, 1975

Yellow Cab Strike Ends as Company Goes Out of Business

by John Haug

of the Capital Times Staff

            The strike at Yellow Cab Co., 627 E. Mifflin St., has ended, according to Robert Rutland, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 895.

            Rutland said today the strike was ended and pickets ordered removed from the site Monday because the company has apparently made good its threat to cease operations.

            Drivers and dispatchers numbering as high as 80 have been on strike over wages and working conditions since April 1. Rutland said the 44 who remained on strike this week received their last benefits check Monday.

            Attorneys for the company were unavailable for comment, but Rutland said Yellow has sold 32 of its cabs and has failed to apply for operating permits for next year,

Company owner Kenneth Ossmann refused comment when asked if lie would try to start the business again.

            Rutland, however, says that should the business resume under the same ownership the strike would be started again.

            If the business is started under new ownership, workers would have to try to re-organize if they wanted union representation, according to Rutland.

            While on strike Yellow employes received strike benefits totaling $35 from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and $15 from Local 695.

            Several of the strikers have asked for union withdrawal cards. Under those they would pay dues for the month in which the card was issued but would still be carried as members.

            Union members can retain their membership by continuing to pay dues. However, if a member falls three months behind in dues payments, he is automatically suspended, Rutland said.

            Many of the employes of Yellow Cab were members of a group called Teamsters for Democracy, comprised of union members who opposed the recent international trusteeship placed on Local 695 and who opposed Rutland in his recent successful election as secretary-treasurer.

            As one striking driver and TED member put it a few months ago. “Rutland wins this one (the Yellow strike) either way. If we get a good contract he looks good to the members. If we lose the strike or if the business is sold, Rutland gets rid of a lot of members he’d probably rather not have around.”

            The sore point in negotiations during the strike centered around wages. Drivers sought an increase in commissions while the company, pleading poverty, asked workers to accept a pay cut.

            The last time the two sides met was in early June. Early in the strike, the company said it would liquidate if the union did not accept its contract proposals.

            Rutland, who had likened the company’s threats to a poker game and said “We’re calling their hand,” said today, “That’s apparently what they’ve done.”

 

Capital Times

Aug. 5, 1975

One More Taxi—Leo Maki Starts Firm

By HOWARD COSGROVE

Of the Capital Times Staff

            With Yellow Cab out of business and a consequent shortage of taxis in town, Leo Maki figured it was about time for him to become his own boss.

            So about the end of this week or early next, people can expect to start seeing a blue car with Capitol Cab Company painted on the door, along with a little white Capitol dome, with Leo Maki at the wheel.

            Maki says he expects to have seven taxis operating by the late fall.

            The zone cabs will be unique in town because they will use a page boy call system instead of a dispatcher. Customers who call for a Capitol Cab will talk directly to the driver, instead of going through a switchboard, Maki said.

            Maki said he’s been thinking of his own cab for some time. He has driven for the past four years for Red Top Cabs here and before that for 18 years with several cab companies in Chicago. His first car will be a regular Checker taxi, but he will add station wagons later. “The first year will be experimental,” he added.

            And because he disliked the system of having drivers pay for their cabs when be was a driver, Maki said he’ll do away with that and just split the gross with his drivers 50-50. He provides the car and maintenance. They buy the gas.

            His rates will be the same as other zone cabs — 65 cents to start, 15 cents per extra passenger and 15 cents per zone.

            Maki said he chose a zone cab over a meter cab because passengers pay about a third less than in meter cabs, and three or four may ride at once in a zone cab, compared with usually only one in a meter cab.

            “I’m doing my share to conserve fuel,” commented Maki. “A zone cab may carry three or four people, but it consumes the same amount of fuel.”

            If he ever decides to switch to a meter, Maki said he would like to find a small, fuel-saving car that would be easy to get in and out of. Too many cab riders seem to be big people, he commented, who have trouble with small cars.

            Maki, who says he was “the only cab driver in town who supported the Yellow Cab strike,” said he will welcome applications from former Yellow drivers who want to work for him. He has several already, he added.

            But for now, he will be the only driver for Capitol’s blue cabs with the white dome.

 

Capital Times

Sept. 26, 1975

Teamsters Guilty of Unfair Labor Practices

            A National Labor Relations Board judge has found Teamsters Union Local 695 here guilty of unfair labor practices in its recent strike against the Yellow Cab Company.

            Yellow Cab was struck last spring. The strike was called off when the company went out of business.

            NLRB Administrative Judge Ivar H. Peterson ruled Thursday that the union was guilty of threatening non-striking drivers and company officials with reprisals, threats of damage to drivers or their vehicles, harassment, blocking traffic at the cab company and damage to Yellow Cab property.

            The Teamsters face no fines nor other penalties, but were ordered to post a notice on their bulletin board agreeing not to further “restrain or coerce” Yellow Cab employes.

Yellow Cab attorney, Robert Kilkelly, said it “supports exactly what we’ve said — since the outset that the Teamsters were guilty of illegal acts against Yellow cab.” He said a damage suit against the union was being considered.

            Yellow’s former owner, Kenneth Ossman, said he’d have no comment until he talked with his attorney. Teamsters’ business agent Robert Rutland was involved in a grievance procedure this morning and unavailable for comment on the NLRB decision.

            After taking testimony on the company’s complaint in May, Peterson found Teamsters had threatened workers with broken arms and legs and physical thrashings.

            Some of the threats occurred, Peterson said in his ruling, when carloads of pickets followed cabs to their destinations to pick up customers. At one point; a driver who had driven to a local motel to pickup a fare was threatened he’d “wake up dead in the morning” by a picket.

            Another driver was asked “how it felt knowing that he would get killed on the job", the ruling said.

            Peterson said that since the local had authorized and in large part organized the strike, local officials should have been held responsible for strikers’ actions.

            “Concerning the question whether the (Teamsters) Union is responsible for such misconduct, I am of the opinion that it is. There can be no question that the union authorized sanctioned and organized the strike and the picketing,” Peterson said.

 

Wisconsin State Journal

Sept. 27, 1975

Out-of-business Yellow Cab ponders suit against union

            The attorney for the now defunct Yellow Cab Co., whose operations were halted last spring by a month-long strike by the Teamsters Union Local 695, said Friday the company is considering a damage suit against the union.

            Robert Kilkelly, attorney for the company, owned by Kenneth Ossman, said such a suit would attempt to recover “damages to the loss of business” caused by the union’s actions on the picket line.

            “The union’s violence drove away the new employes hired by the company, and thus lost the company business,” Kilkelly said. The suit would follow a guilty finding against the union issued Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The union was charged with unfair labor practices during the Yellow Cab strike. Specifically, the NLRB ruled the union was guilty of threatening non-striking drivers with damage to themselves or their vehicles, harassment, blocking the driveway at the company and damage to company property.

            The Teamsters were ordered to post a notice on their bulletin board agreeing not to further intimidate Yellow Cab employes or damage company property.

 

Capital Times

Oct. 21, 1975

HELLO Wisconsin

by MILES McMILLIN

            A COLUMN ON Oct. 15th which was based on a Wall Street Journal article about the sad financial plight of public libraries across the country as contrasted to the millions being dumped into huge athletic arenas has drawn quite a bit of critical attention. One very unfriendly letter comes from John August and Phyllis Perna. John has been active in the Teamsters Union locally and was one of the organizers of the Yellow Cab union. Phyllis has also been identified with the militant Teamsters in this city.

***

            UNFORTUNATELY, THE letter is prohibitively long and it bears the request that it not be used unless it is used “as a whole.” I would like to use the letter and it can be edited for brevity, without changing its meaning. But I can’t find John August in the telephone book and I can’t get an answer at the number listed for Perna. If either will contact me, I will try to persuade them that repetition of the epithets doesn’t prove that I am a “journalistic criminal,” or a “capitalist pig” any more than the single assertion.