Taxi Coops

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By Pat Conaty, Alex Bird and Cilla Ross:

"Taxi‐drivers are almost all self‐employed. Many drive their own cabs but many others rent cabs by the day from private entrepreneurs who also control the radio networks and routing systems.

Many taxi co‐ops have come and gone over the years, often because of lack of support from the local authorities that issue the licences, combined with the unfavourable terms imposed by the radio network operators. The network operators usually charge a percentage of fares taken and may also impose additional requirements such as an obligation to rent or buy the cabs from specified sources or even to purchase fuel from selected garages.  

Taxi co‐ops have been around for a long time in Birmingham, Southend‐on‐Sea, Bridgnorth and in Dunbartonshire in Scotland. However, while some have slipped away through demutualisation, new taxi co‐ops continue to replace them.   One city where they have had a long term presence, though, is Edinburgh, where the taxi business is dominated by two taxi co‐ops; City Cabs19, which was established in 1925, and Central Taxis20, which has been in operation since 1971. City has 400 members and 1,100 registered drivers, whilst Central also has 400 members and 1,300 registered drivers.

City Cabs was formed when twenty‐five taxi drivers got together in September 1925 and decided to form an Association to benefit the Edinburgh Taxi Trade and its drivers. There were originally 87 members and the joining fee was 1 Guinea. The original minutes for the inaugural meeting held on 13th September 1925 are kept at the City Cabs office in Edinburgh.  

As Les McVay, the City Cabs Company Secretary put it:‐ 

- “In 1925 the Labour and TU movement was weak, so the original members, who wanted to control their own destiny, simply took control of their own lives.”  

Both co‐ops, as well as the third operator, Singapore owned Com Cabs, work closely with Unite to negotiate with the City Council over rates and license conditions. The number of licenced cabs is strictly regulated in Edinburgh, and has been so for a long time, apart from a period between 1985 and 1995. Consequently, hackney cab plate numbers are limited, and are only transferable for a cost of £30,000. This ensures that all owners have made a serious financial commitment, and are therefore encouraged to invest in their vehicles as well." (

The Green Taxi Coop in Denver

By Pat Conaty, Alex Bird and Cilla Ross:

"The Green Taxi Coop in Denver, is a co‐op that is fully unionised. Founded in response to the "Uberisation" of the taxi market in Denver, Green Taxi is the biggest taxi company in the city with 800 drivers, from 37 different nationalities, and 37 per cent of the market. It is now the second largest worker co‐operative in the United States.  

“These monopolies [Metro, Colorado Springs shuttle and Dashabout Roadrunner shuttle] rig the game for their own benefit. On the other hand, the choice between a monopoly and Uber, who has very little interest in securing the passenger or sustainably supporting the driver, between that is a huge opportunity and that’s where Green Taxi fits in,” said Jason Wiener, lawyer for Green Taxi.

Worker‐owned taxi co‐operatives already had a foothold in Colorado. Union Taxi23 of Denver, founded in 2008, had 264 drivers. But as they looked for ways to reach a scale that can compete with Uber and Lyft (there are approximately seven times more Uber drivers in Denver than regulated taxis), they ran up against transportation licensing laws in Colorado, which made it easier to form a new firm than expanding Union Taxi.

With the support of Communications Workers of America Local 7777 (CWA)24, which even included offering members rent‐free accommodation in the union offices, the new Green Taxi Coop was formed in the summer of 2014. Michael Peck of the ‘1Worker1Vote’ campaign in the USA has confirmed that further work on replicating the Green Taxi model is also underway in Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, New York and San Francisco.

Green Taxi Co‐operative uses a tailored app. There is a thriving market in these tailored apps, and examples include Cordic, used by both Central Taxis and City Cabs in Edinburgh, Cabgo which has been developed by Paul McCormack of Phoenix Taxi Co‐op in Liverpool, AutoCab used by Green Taxi Co‐op in Denver, whilst Union Taxi Co‐op in Denver have developed their own.

Our understanding, talking to app developers, is that it would be technically very easy for a co‐op or trade union to licence an off‐the‐shelf app like the ones listed, and set it up to work across the entire UK, thus undermining the advantage that Uber and Lyft have in the taxi market – their geographic reach.  

All it needs is for the co‐ops or unions to work together to broker a contract for such a system across the co‐ops/companies, and by licensing in this way, the upfront costs would be modest." (