Happy 30th Anniversary, Union Cab!!

Right about the time of this post, in 1979, the first Union Cab passenger (the wife of one of our drivers, Mike Gibson who would later serve as Operations Manager) marked the first fare of Union Cab.

We still have a couple of members who were there on Day One. We have one person who has been at Union Cab without a break for thirty years.

Union’s history started about a decade before as the City’s cab drivers began organizing for a labor union to address unsafe working conditions, poor pay, and an inhumane workplace. The history of that time period can be found at Union Cab’s Website.

It has been a long, strange trip as they say. I’ve been there for 21 years (my anniversary date is November 7, 1988). I seen a lot of hard work, a lot of honest mistakes, some dishonest mistakes, and an incredible spirit that has always allowed us to dust ourselves off and start all over again when needed.

Recently, with the sudden publicity of worker co-operatives, I have winced at some of the assumptions that I have heard. How people need to see worker coops as viable and not just a bunch of “long-hair crackpots” or how Mondragon and the Steelworkers will pull worker co-operatives into “the mainstream.” Ugh.

For 30 years, my co-op, Union Cab, has been providing living wage or better jobs in a safe, humane and democratic environment. We met the desires of those cab drivers from the late 1960’s who mainly wanted dignity in their work and a decent paycheck. Our workforce is as blue-collar as any “mainstream” factory and we also have a lot of college educated people as well (sometimes they are the same people, believe it or not).

I’m proud to be part of this co-op and to know the hundreds of people who have come through our doors over the years. Some went on to careers that might seem “bigger” such as Stu Levitan, Michael Feldman (host of Public Radio’s Whadya Know), Butch Vig of the band Garbage, and even Robert DeChiene who helped get Russ Feingold into the Senate and now serves as the Chief of Staff for Rep. Steve Rothman (NJ-9). Others found work more to their liking that driving a cab (it isn’t as romantic or fun as one might think) and a lot of us stayed (or came back).

Our members are active in their community. Several have served elected office and on countless committees for the city, county and their neighborhoods. On any give weekend, one can find a Union Cab active member or alumni playing out at the clubs or deejaying on the local community radio station.The local music awards (the MAMAs) was created by a Union Cab driver, Rick Tvedt.

As far as I’m concerned, we are about as mainstream as it gets (and, yeah, some do have long hair). It is a great community and a great family.

It feels good to be 30 again!

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-ops in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University.
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