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Wisconsin State Journal

May 9, 1976

Yellow Cab Co. founder dies

            The founder of Madison’s former Yellow Cab Co., Charles C. Ossmann, 81, Bradenton, Fla., died Friday in a Bradenton hospital.

            Ossmann began his Madison business in1920 when he moved a cab and transfer business to the city after an earlier start in Janesville.

            Within 10 years, the business had become the cab company, Yellow Transfer Co. and Yellow Truck Lines, operating a network of 650 miles of lines.

            Ossmann launched his business career with $250 he saved as a telephone cable splicer, enough to buy one truck in Janesville.

            He had trained earlier as a harness maker but soon decided the car would replace the horse and went on to other work that led him to the Rock County Telephone Co. and Janesville, where he set out on his own.

            The Madison Yellow Cab Co. was closed last year by Ossmann’s son, Kenneth, during a strike by cab drivers.

            Ossmann left Madison in 1960.


Capital Times

Nov. 6, 1976

NLRB sets union election at Checker

            When the Yellow Cab Company was liquidated last year, the Checker Cab Company took over many of its taxis and a number of its drivers. Now Checker may get something else Yellow had: an employes’ union. The National Labor Relations Board on Friday scheduled a Dec. 1 union representation election for the company’s 110 employes.

            The election was set after Checker management refused a demand for recognition by Wisconsin General and Industrial Workers Union Local 104, an affiliate of the Laundry and Drycleaning International Union.

            Tom Kiesgen, a representative of the international union, said today that more than 90 of the 110 employes have signed cards asking membership in Local 104. Employes of the company include taxi and limousine drivers, phone answerers, dispatchers, mechanics and airport luggage handlers.

            Checker president Raymond Veloff today had “no comment” on the organizing drive.

            Yellow Cab was liquidated last July after a three-month strike by Teamsters Local 695. Though some of Yellow’s cabs and drivers were added to the Checker operation, Local 695 was not.

            One reliable source said a union other than the Teamsters was sought out by Checker organizers because of a “general antipathy” felt toward Local 695, particularly toward secretary-treasurer Robert Rutland.

            Rutland was named head of 695 in 1973 after a trusteeship was imposed upon the local by the Teamsters International. One of Rutland’s first acts was to purge the local of several organizers and business agents.

            One of the purged organizers was James Marketti, who had organized Yellow Cab for the Teamsters and, who maintained the support of workers there. Another of the purged organizers was Tom Kiesgen, who was later temporarily rehired by 695 before going to work for the union which is now organizing Checker.


Wisconsin State Journal

Oct. 3, 1976

Teamster head raps dissidents

            Editor’s note: An interview with three Madison Teamsters who want to reform the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ran in The Wisconsin State Journal last Sunday. They said the international leadership is corrupt, undemocratic and often makes “sweetheart” deals with employers behind the backs of the rank-and-file Teamster. The following article is a response to their charges by Robert Rutland, head of the Madison-based Teamster Local 695.

By Leila Pine Of The State Journal

            Robert Rutland, head of the 5,800-member Teamsters Local 695, believes the sole purpose of the dissident Teamsters for Democracy (TFD) faction is “to infiltrate a labor organization and use it for their own political purposes.”

            Rutland, who has held the union local’s most powerful post — secretary-treasurer —- since he was elected in December, 1974, was asked in an interview for his opinion of the reform movement within Teamster ranks and the formation of the nationwide organization called Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) Sept. 18.

‘A handful’

            He said he doesn’t know much about the national group yet and wouldn’t want to comment until he learned more about them. But Rutland had plenty to say about the local TFD members, some of whom also are active in the national group.

            “Let’s set the record straight once and for all,” he said. “TFD is just a handful of people, probably not even a dozen, who are trying to impose their views on the majority.”

            He believes the majority of the union membership is satisfied with the way Local 695 is being run.

            “Anyone who comes here with a problem is never turned away,” Rutland said. “We take good care of our members.”

            He characterized the TFD as a group that believes “the government is no good, American industry is no good and all labor organizations are corrupt and crooked. Everything is bad except them.”

            As for charges of corruption in the union’s top ranks, Rutland said the Teamsters Union probably has been through more federal investigations than any other labor organization in the country.

            “I’m sure there have been some convictions, but of the 800 or more locals in the United States, far fewer union officials have been indicted than bank executives,” he said.

            TFD believes trusteeship, in which the international can take control of a local’s funds and decision-making powers, is used by Teamster President Frank Fitzsimmons to get rid of dissidents within a local. Local 695 was held in trusteeship, with Rutland sent in to run the local, from November, 1973, to December, 1974.

‘Bonafide reason’

            “I’m sure TFD would love to eliminate trusteeships from our international constitution,” Rutland said. “But trusteeships are never imposed unless there’s a bonafide reason for it. They were pooling strike funds, which is not an accepted practice in the union constitution.”

            James Marketti, a former Local 695 organizer, and TFD filed suit against the international soon after the trusteeship was imposed, charging it was illegal and was imposed to stop the local’s militant and progressive policies.

            An out-of-court settlement was reached in June, 1975, with the international paying $20,000 and each side signing an agreement to dismiss all claims made against the other party.

            Rutland produced a photocopy of a Sept. 2, 1975, letter from Chicago lawyer Eugene Pavalon, who represented the international, which said TFD’s attorney “advised me that the $20,000 would be utilized solely for attorneys’ fees.”

            “The only ones who won were the attorneys,” Rutland said.

            Federal Court records state: “Defendants shall pay to plaintiffs the sum of $20,000.”

Power at local level

            TFD spokesman John August said although a large portion of the settlement went to attorneys, “The main point is, why did the international pay the $20,000 to stop the lawsuit? It’s because the outcome would have been disasterous for them.”

            Rutland said the settlement was made because “it was fruitless to go on with it, since the trusteeship was dissolved by that time and officers had been elected and installed.”

            As for TFD’s charges and the international structure is inherently undemocratic, Rutland said the power is at the local level, not at the international level.

            “Any local union whose officers are following the international constitution can’t have its officers removed by Fitzsimmons, the executive board or anyone else,” he said. “We have a constitution and laws, just like this country does, and if someone doesn’t follow them, he’s sure going to hear about it.”

            Rutland said that just as he doesn’t agree with everything President Ford does, he doesn’t agree with everything Fitzsimmons does.

            “But he was elected and until someone else is elected as our general president, I think the resolutions and recommendations of the executive board and the president should be followed,” he said.

            Rutland denied delegates to the national convention, where the international officers are elected, are “hand-picked by local officials.

            “We elect local officers every three years, and when each member casts a ballot, it says right on the ballot that those they elect will be delegates to the convention,” he said. “So the delegates are elected directly by the members.”

            With a nationwide membership of more than 2-million, the international union would “have to have a pretty, big meeting hall” to let all the rank-and-file come to the convention to elect international officers, he said.

            Rutland also denied charges that the union makes “sweetheart” deals with employers. ("Teamsters are getting better wage packages than most other union members,” he said) or blacklisting dissident members who lose their jobs.

            “John August was a cab driver for Yellow Cab until it folded. He was unemployed for awhile, but in August he found a job at a liquor store that’s in Local 695 jurisdiction,” Rutland said. “If that’s blacklisting him, I don’t know what he’s talking about.”


Wisconsin State Journal

March 9, 1977

Hearing today on cab permits

            The city Transportation Commission will hold a public hearing at 4 p.m. today to consider a request for 20 new meter taxi permits.

            The request for the permits is from the owner of the Red Cab Co., Don Eithun, who wants to establish a new company to be called “Yellow Cab Co.” Eithun wants to operate this new company in addition to the present Red Cab operation.

            Testimony will be accepted from the public on the request in Room 202 of the City-County Building.

Wisconsin State Journal

April 7, 1977

Yellow Cab revival is sought

By Steven T. Lovejoy

Of The State Journal

            Three Madison businessmen are attempting to revive the operation of the Yellow Cab Co., which closed its doors two years ago during a strike by drivers.

            Joseph Bong, operator of A-l Cab Co. for the past two years, Kenneth Kimport Sr. and Kenneth Kimport Jr. of Kayser Ford and Kayser Leasing, have filed an application with the city to resume the meter cab service.

            Yellow Cab Co. owner Kenneth Ossmann, Middleton, said Wednesday he has made no transfer of the Yellow Cab name, but confirmed it has been for sale.

            Ossmann closed the company’s operations at 627 E. Mifflin St. after a month-long strike by Teamsters Local 695 in April, 1975.

            Kenneth Kimport Sr. said late Wednesday an offer for the Yellow Cab name has been made but the transaction has not been completed.

            At the time of the strike, Yellow Cab was the largest taxicab company in the city with 80 employes and 38 cabs.

            Bong said Wednesday he hopes to see the renewed operations beginning by Aug. 1.

            He said if the City Council approves the permits the company expects to open with 20 Ford Granadas or Mustangs operating out of the Kayser Car rental location, 648 E. Washington Ave.

            “If it goes good, we’ll put on more,” Bong said, “Madison needs a cab company.”

            Bong said he is selling his own firm A-l Cab Co., which he has operated with three cabs for the past two years. He estimated it will take about $100,000 for the new cab operation to get going.

            City Transit Coordinator James McLary said Wednesday the application for the cab operation requires approval of the City Council and the City Transportation Commission.

            McLary said the application for the new company would be taken up by the Transportation Commission on May 11, the same day as other cab company renewals.

            Yellow Cab Co. was started by the late Charles C. Ossmann, father of Kenneth Ossmann, who took $250 in savings and opened a cab and transfer business in Janesville. Ossmann then moved the business to Madison in 1920.


Wisconsin State Journal

Sept. 16, 1977

Checker Cab workers strike

            Employes of Checker Cab Co., 101 S. Baldwin St., went on strike at about midnight Thursday in the city’s second cab drivers strike in little more than two years.

            Atty. William Hayes, representing Checker Cab, said the company will continue operations today despite the strike. He said some of the firm’s 110 employes continued to drive in spite of the strike.

            At 1 a.m., eight to 10 employes were picketing the company’s office. Hayes said he was uncertain why the employes had struck because earlier Thursday the two sides had set a bargaining session for Monday.

            The union, Wisconsin General and Industrial Workers Local 104, has been bargaining its first contract and has filed charges against the firm with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the firm of refusal to bargain, unilateral changes in working conditions and discrimination against a former employe for union activities, according to Thomas Kiesgan, union representative.

            A strike by 50 employes of the former Yellow Cab Co., 627 E. Mifflin St., in the spring of 1975 shut down that firm’s operations for a month before company owner Kenneth Ossmann decided to close the firm. The employes had been represented by Teamsters Union Local 695.


Wisconsin State Journal

Sept. 17, 1977

Cab strike enters its second day

            Employes of Checker Cab Co. began their second day of a strike today with no immediate prospects for resolution of the conflict.

            The company early this morning was not accepting any orders for cab service, “We are not providing any cab service,” a company spokesman said.

            A meeting is scheduled Monday between the employes’ union, which represents about 100 drivers, and the company. No other meeting is planned before then, according to Bob LaBrasca, president of the newly-formed Local 104 of the Wisconsin General and Industrial Workers Union.

            LaBrasca said the company set the Monday meeting, although the union is prepared to meet at any time. “It is very difficult to say at this point when the strike will end,” LaBrasca said, refusing to speculate on whether the strike will last long.

            “It depends on what happens at Monday’s meeting,” he said.

            “We’ve gone on strike in response to what we feel are unfair bargaining practices by the company,” LaBrasca said.

            The union has been bargaining its first contract for nine months and has filed charges against the firm with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for refusal to bargain, unilateral changes in working conditions and discrimination against a former employe for union activities, according to Thomas Kiesgan, union representative.

            The strike is the second by cab company workers in a little more than two years. In the spring of 1975 workers at the now defunct Yellow Cab Company shut down the firm for a month before the company went out of business.

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