Union taxi drivers plan anti-Uber demonstration on Strip

Union taxi drivers for Yellow Checker Star plan a demonstration that could block traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard this afternoon as the weekend arrives and temperatures rise.

Drivers represented by the Industrial, Technical and Professional Employees Union Local 4873 say they will protest the Nevada Legislature’s approval of the regulation of transportation network companies, including Uber.

The work stoppage is planned for 2-5 p.m.

The chief of enforcement for the Nevada Taxicab Authority said there’s not a lot the regulatory body can do if a protest occurs.

“It’s a lawful assembly protected by the First Amendment,” said Ruben Aquino, who heads the Taxicab Authority’s enforcement arm.

“At this point, all we can do is coordinate with Metro (Police Department) and by that, I mean we’ve exchanged information so that they’re prepared,” he said.

The protest would occur in the middle of the Valley National 8-Ball League Association World Pool Championship, where 10,000 people are gathered at Bally’s Las Vegas, and the kickoff of the JCK annual jewelry trade show at Mandalay Bay, which 37,500 people are expected to attend.

“Our members are professional drivers,” Local 4873 President Dennis Arrington said. “They are experienced drivers, fully insured and have passed comprehensive background checks.

“The same cannot be said for Uber drivers,” Arrington said in a statement. “These so-called drivers can be hired without any driving experience, are not insured by the company and are let loose on the streets without any sort of background check.”

Visitation normally swells in Southern Nevada on weekends, and today is expected to be the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures closing in on triple digits.

A Yellow Checker Star official said that if only his company’s cabs participate, there would be 700 vehicles idled, but if other cab companies working with the same union are involved, it could be as many as 850, nearly one-third of Clark County’s fleet.

A spokeswoman for the union said the protest only involves Yellow Checker Star drivers for now, “but that could morph” and expand to union drivers at other companies.

Bills approved by the Legislature require transportation network company drivers to be insured and given background checks but not at the same levels as taxi drivers.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has yet to sign the two bills approved Saturday morning and Tuesday afternoon by the Assembly that enables companies hailed through a smartphone application to operate in the state and be regulated by the Nevada Transportation Authority.

Jonathan Schwartz, a director for Yellow Checker Star the second-largest cab group in Southern Nevada, said he was not aware of the demonstration until contacted by a reporter. He said he will try to persuade drivers not to participate.

“From management’s perspective, this could negatively impact drivers as well as the riding public,” Schwartz said. “I did contact the union and tried to step in, but it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen.”

Cab company protests against Uber are nothing new.

About 180 cabdrivers honked horns as they drove around City Hall in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, protesting a proposal to allow Uber and Lyft drivers to pick up passengers at the city’s airport.

Large cab protests also have occurred in New York, London and Mexico City.

Nevada is corrupt as shit – Bill to regulate Uber fails in Nevada Senate

Featured Image -- 16617CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A bill that would allow for ride-hailing companies such as Uber in Nevada has failed in the Nevada Senate.

Senators on Wednesday rejected SB439, which would create regulations for so-called “transportation network companies” that allow people to hail a ride using a smartphone.

The bill needed a two-thirds majority to move forward because it raises a fee. The bill would have required a 25-cent per trip surcharge that would support road construction.

Democrats said opposed because they wanted amendments including one requiring FBI background checks on drivers.

Uber briefly operated in Nevada this fall before a state judge issued a restraining order, saying the company refused to follow regulations governing taxicab companies.

Cab companies say Uber is wrongly seeking special treatment.

Eyebrows rise as Uber-cab case bounces

The ghosts of the Las Vegas cab racket past must have had a good chuckle. The state’s current corporate taxi service licensees surely smiled as well.

Call it a fortuitous turn of events at the Washoe County Courthouse. Suspect it was a piece of long-distance legal legerdemain, if you wish.

But you have to be impressed with the preliminary injunction the Nevada Transportation Authority (and representatives of the cab industry) recently won over ride-sharing company Uber. Not because the state had the facts on its side as it presented its case in Judge Scott Freeman’s courtroom but because it managed to succeed in what at least one state Supreme Court justice seems to suspect was an attempt at forum shopping. Simply stated, forum shopping takes place when a litigant chooses a courtroom he believes the odds of prevailing are in his favor.

One fact isn’t in dispute: The authority first sought a temporary restraining order against Uber before Clark County District Judge Douglas Herndon, who denied the motion. The state on Oct. 27 filed its related litigation in Washoe County and followed the next day in Clark County. Two counties, two lawsuits. A TRO and preliminary injunction, already denied in Clark County, was granted in Washoe, where Judge Freeman also took jurisdictional possession of the case.

Before Freeman, the state prevailed in its argument despite the endorsement of Uber by Nevada Department of Business and Industry Director Bruce Breslow, whose duties include regulation of the state’s cab and limo service licensees. Breslow admitted he had used Uber on trips in cities outside Nevada, where the Internet-based service isn’t so controversial. Freeman expressed concern about the safety of Uber’s service.

“I’m not going to risk the safety of the public,” Freeman said.

Uber argues that it’s a technology-based platform, not a transportation company, and isn’t subject to Nevada rules and regulations. I wonder if it’s beginning to suspect there are unwritten rules at play in Nevada, too.

Uber’s legal standing aside, some legal observers are scratching their heads over the state’s success in bouncing the forum from Clark to Washoe. Did it intend to file its complaint in Clark County, but shifted to Washoe after Herndon’s denial of the temporary restraining order?

A three-justice state Supreme Court panel recently visited the issue and came away with a split. In a Nov. 24 opinion, Justices James Hardesty and Michael Douglas concluded that Uber’s argument to dismiss or stay the proceedings wasn’t compelling enough to for the high court to intervene. In short, the two justices concluded Judge Freeman “did not exceed his jurisdiction and was not required by law to dismiss or stay the proceedings.”

The justices determined, “Although NTA’s failure to follow the relevant procedural rules demonstrates an inept effort to commence its case,” the justices said it failed to impugn the neutrality of the court.

But Justice Michael Cherry offered quite another view in his dissent. He called for a meeting of the entire court to revisit the matter and said the case “raises an important issue of statewide concern regarding litigant practices and the appropriate forum to hear disputes when essentially the matter is filed in multiple district courts. He said the transit authority’s two requests for relief “gives an appearance of improper forum shopping. By denying this petition, the majority may very well encourage such behavior in future matters in our district courts, which I cannot condone.”

That qualifies as strong rhetoric coming from a veteran member of the court.

Perhaps Cherry appreciates how such things are apt to look to the outside world in 2014, where people are likely to look askance at the protectionist laws involving the transportation industry, and the ghosts of Nevada’s cab racket are supposed to be a part of our colorful past.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. E-mail him atjsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 703-383-0295.

Uber suspends operations in corrupt Nevada

After a lengthy court battle, the ride sharing service, Uber announced today it will suspend operations in Nevada. The company’s official statement is below.

“It’s unfortunate that Nevada is the first state in the Nation to temporarily suspend Uber – that means nearly 1000 jobs just disappeared overnight and those residents lost their ability to earn a living. On Thanksgiving – when Nevadans should be celebrating with family, now many are worried about how they’re going to pay their bills.””We remain committed to working with Nevada’s leaders to create a permanent regulatory framework that affords Nevadans the flexibility and innovation offered by Uber.”

Eva Behrend
Communications, West
Uber Technologies, Inc.

Judge blocks Uber from Nevada

By Scott Sonner, AP

A Washoe County District Court judge granted the state’s request late Tuesday for a court order blocking the ridesharing company Uber Technologies from operating unregulated in Nevada, saying Uber’s refusal to comply with the necessary state licensing requirements could put the public’s safety at risk.

Nevada’s attorney general filed a lawsuit last month arguing that the Internet application matching riders with drivers using personal cars for a fee infringes on the franchise rights of taxi companies and cabdrivers serving fare-paying passengers under state oversight.

Washoe District Judge Scott Freeman granted the state’s request for a preliminary injunction pending a future trial based on concerns that Nevadans could be at risk as a result of the company’s refusal to follow state laws regulating commercial motor carriers and passenger transportation services.

Freeman’s ruling came after Nevada Department of Business and Industry Director Bruce Breslow and Freeman himself praised the Uber application. Breslow said he has used it multiple times in other cities where it’s regulated.

“There’s no question it’s a wonderful product,” Freeman said. “But I’m charged with following the law — the law currently in existence. … I’m not going to risk the safety of the public.”

The Delaware-based Uber maintains it is a technology company, not a transportation-services company subject to Nevada regulations that apply to taxis or commercial motor carriers. The state is trying “to compel a legal round peg into a square hole,” said Don Campbell, a Las Vegas lawyer representing Uber.

Breslow testified that representatives of Uber met with him last month to discuss ways they might comply with those regulations. But he said that two days later he was blindsided by Uber’s formal launch of its business in Nevada on Oct. 24 with nothing more than an email notice that morning.

Deputy Attorney General Gina Session said Uber’s defiance of state authority was unprecedented in her 20 years of dealing with regulatory law in Nevada. “I’ve never seen a multibillion-dollar company come into Nevada and so aggressively and deliberately disregard the law,” she said.

Freeman questioned witnesses and lawyers directly at times during a more than six-hour hearing in his Reno courtroom on Tuesday.

“Why did Uber choose to operate first without regulation?” the judge asked Uber’s lawyers at one point. “Why didn’t you try to change the law first, then operate?”

Campbell pleaded with Freeman to deny the request for a preliminary injunction because there has been no irreparable harm or threat to public safety. He recommended instead that the judge set an expedited hearing schedule for a pending trial, which has yet to be scheduled.

Freeman said he would provide more detail in a formal order he hoped to issue on Wednesday. He ruled earlier Tuesday that taxi companies can’t join the state’s lawsuit because it currently is a regulatory matter, not a question of economic damages. He said that Bell Limo and Whittlesea Checker Taxi can claim monetary harm later and file civil lawsuits separately, the judge said.

Campbell argued that the company is not a motor carrier as defined by state law, in part because it does not “hold itself out to be public.” Unlike taxicabs, the Uber drivers have no distinguishing paint or other indications that identify them, and patrons are unable to hail them from a curbside, only order a ride through the online app.

“Uber does not dispatch anybody,” he said.

Campbell said that while Uber doesn’t meet the specific state regulations, it does conduct background checks on drivers, requires vehicle inspections and provides assessments of drivers and riders alike in “real time” based on a reviews they can make via the online app immediately after completing their travel. He argued those reviews do a better job of detecting impaired drivers than the state’s current policy that includes random drug testing.

But Freeman said that only helps after the fact and doesn’t guard against dangers upon entering the vehicle. “By the time a customer figures out somebody in the car is stoned, it’s too late,” he said.

The Nevada Supreme Court could decide today on venue in Uber legal battle

Featured Image -- 16617The Nevada Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether a state court judge in Reno or one Las Vegas should hear a bid by state taxi regulators and limousine firms to block ride-sharing company Uber Technologies from operating.
The state high court has received written arguments from both sides and could rule Monday — ahead of a hearing scheduled Tuesday before Washoe County District Court Judge Scott Freeman in Reno.

Beyond the venue dispute is a key question: Does an Internet app matching riders with drivers using personal cars for commerce infringe on franchise rights of taxi companies and cabbies to shuttle fare-paying passengers to places like airports and the Las Vegas Strip?

Since Uber launched Oct. 24, Nevada Taxi Authority agents have cited Uber drivers and impounded cars.

Judge postpones hearing on Uber operations

A Clark County court hearing involving the ride-sharing company Uber was postponed Monday after the Nevada attorney general’s office withdrew its request for a preliminary injunction.

Uber began operating in Nevada on Oct. 24, prompting the attorney general’s office to seek temporary restraining orders against the company in Clark County, Washoe County and Carson City.

Judges in Washoe County and Carson City agreed to issue the orders, but Clark County District Judge Douglas Herndon denied the request that came before him and scheduled a hearing on the state’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Kimberly Arguello said her office withdrew the Clark County motion on Friday after Washoe County District Judge Scott Freeman ruled that he had jurisdiction over the issue.

“We are attempting to abide by Judge Freeman’s ruling,” Arguello told Herndon on Monday.

But Herndon disagreed with Freeman’s conclusion.

“I think my case was filed first,” Herndon said.

Carson City Judge Todd Russell has issued a stay in his case. Meanwhile, Uber’s lawyers have asked the Nevada Supreme Court to sort out the questions about jurisdiction.

In court on Monday, Uber lawyer Colby Williams accused the attorney general’s office of engaging in “impermissible forum shopping,” and Herndon said he had concerns about the office’s conduct in the case.

Arguello agreed that her office has created a problem with the way it handled the litigation.

“We are attempting to get Uber to obey the law,” she said. “We may have done it inartfully.”

Herndon scheduled a status hearing in the Clark County case for Friday morning.

He said the various judges do not care who hears the case, but judges have an obligation to hear all matters that come before them.

“Only one of these cases should be proceeding,” Herndon said.

Although the judge refused to grant a restraining order last month, he said agents with the Nevada Taxicab Authority and the Nevada Transporation Authority could continue citing drivers they suspect are violating the law.

More than two dozen drivers have been cited for providing an unlicensed for-hire transportation service since Uber began operating in the state.

Also, Whittlesea Blue Cab Co. has filed a lawsuit against Uber in Clark County.

On Monday morning, several protesters held signs outside the Regional Justice Center in opposition to Uber’s operations in Nevada. The company is based in San Francisco.

“Since we launched in Nevada, one thing has remained clear and constant — Nevadans love Uber and are already relying on Uber to connect them to the people and places they love,” Uber said in a statement released Monday. “Uber will continue (to) defend the right of every Nevadan to enjoy safe, reliable transportation options.”

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer.

BUMBY RIDE – Judge: Uber ride sharing can roll on, for now

The constroversial ride-sharing company Uber can continue to operate in Southern Nevada, a Las Vegas judge ruled today.

District Judge Douglas Herndon made the ruling from the bench after holding a hearing on the matter.

Uber launched its service Friday but immediately met resistance from the state’s Department of Business and Industry, which oversees the Nevada Taxicab Authority and the Nevada Transportation Authority.

Enforcement officers from both agencies cited drivers for providing an “unlicensed for-hire transportation service” and impounded their vehicles. The San Francisco-based company responded by vowing to back its contracted drivers and providing rental cars for them until vehicles were freed from impoundment. Drivers can be fined up to $10,000 per incident.

Uber, which connects riders with drivers through an mobile device application, began in 2009 and now operates in more than 200 cities worldwide.

After Uber began operating in Nevada, state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto obtained a temporary restraining order in Carson City.

On Wednesday, Herndon denied a temporary restraining order in Southern Nevada, though he said Uber drivers can still be cited.

A hearing on a state motion for a preliminary injunction to block Uber operations was set for Nov. 14.

Contact repor

AP: Corrupt Carson City Judge JAMES TODD RUSSELL blocks Uber service in Nevada and gives in to Taxi mafia

RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) — News 4 has received a statement from Uber, regarding their status following the temporary stay in Nevada.

Michael Amodeo from the Communications Department at Uber released the following statement:

“Uber is not banned in the state of Nevada. We continue to operate and look forward to meeting the tremendous demand that we have already seen throughout the state.”

Amodeo also provided a statement from Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend:

“For far too long, the people of Nevada have been denied access to the reliable, safe and affordable transportation options millions of other Americans are enjoying. We’ve already received overwhelming demand and support from thousands of residents who have downloaded the app, and drivers looking to meet that need. Now is the time for state officials to embrace innovation, support powerful job creation, and stand with the people of Nevada who need them most.”

What is Uber?

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP, MyNews4.com & KRNV) — The Associated Press is reporting that the Attorney General’s Office has been granted a temporary stay that blocks Uber from operating in Nevada.

Corrupt District Court Judge James Russell in Carson City has blocked Uber from offering any rides in the state through at least Nov. 7. A hearing is set for Nov. 6.

The state’s attorney general sought the temporary order late Friday afternoon.

Uber launched its service in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City on Friday after months of rumors that included recruitment posts on Craigslist and cryptic front-page newspaper advertisements.


Corrupt Carson City Judge JAMES TODD RUSSELL blocks Uber service in Nevada and gives in to Taxi mafia

The company contends it’s not a taxi company but rather a technology company facilitating a way for drivers and would-be passengers in need of a ride to meet.

The company faces a fierce battle with the state’s highly regulated and influential taxi industry.

Four cars driven for Uber had been impounded statewide for not being licensed as of midafternoon and faced fines of up to $10,000, said Teri Williams, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Taxicab Authority.

Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend called the impoundments “unjust” and said the company will have its drivers’ backs financially and legally. Uber is the only ridesharing company now operating in the three metro areas. Las Vegas has been among the few metropolitan cities in the country to not be served by the company.

The company tiptoed around Nevada until its Friday launch. A multitude of regulations govern the state’s taxicab industry, and there are limits on the number of cabs that can operate and where they can pick up passengers. In Las Vegas, unlike other metropolitan cities that draw tourists, cabs can’t be hailed from the sidewalks along the Strip, for example. They have to pick up and drop off passengers at the individual hotel properties.

Behrend said that hundreds of drivers in the state have already signed up and passed background checks and vehicle inspections that clear them to respond to requests for rides via smartphone. Before the court order, drivers could pick up passengers from anywhere in the service areas, except from the Las Vegas Strip between the Mandalay Bay and SLS casinos and from McCarran International Airport. They can drop off customers anywhere.

Uber rides are generally 10 to 20 percent cheaper than taxi fares — a competitive advantage especially in light of an 8 percent cab fare hike approved earlier this week in Las Vegas.

An early afternoon Uber ride from downtown Las Vegas to Mandalay Bay at the south end of the Strip cost $22.50. Drivers don’t accept tips, just a ranking of one to five stars. A taxi ride back to downtown Las Vegas cost $28.50, including a $3 fee for a credit card charge. The cost didn’t include a tip.

Uber has often been met with strident opposition from taxi companies, and heavily regulated Las Vegas is no exception.

Bill Shranko, an executive at Yellow Checker Star taxi company in Las Vegas, asked regulators with the Nevada Taxicab Authority in April to warn Uber and similar companies that the city has hefty fines for operating unlicensed cabs and maintained that the company was operating illegally.

About 2,000 cabs fill the streets of Clark County, including the Las Vegas Strip, Shranko said.

He criticized Uber for picking and choosing customers, saying, “They’re taking all the cream off the top.”

As of early Friday afternoon, just a few cars were visible on Uber’s app.

Marco Falchi’s Mazda 6 was among them. He excitedly picked up some of the company’s first Vegas passengers, greeting them with a “Ciao” text. The chatty Italian has never driven a traditional cab before, but six months ago, he applied to be a driver for Uber, submitting his license, insurance and driving record.

His first customers were two young men heading from a suburban condo to downtown Las Vegas for the three-day Life is Beautiful music festival that starts Friday.

“Here the politics are really tough,” Falchi said, referring to the Vegas area’s taxi industry. But he’s undeterred. “If you work more, you make more money.”

Uber launches in Nev., gets push-back from Taxicab Authority

LAS VEGAS — Uber is making good on the rumors. The ridesharing company launched in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City Friday afternoon, but not without a little opposition.

As soon as the company hit the road, the Southern Nevada Taxicab Authority put up road blocks.

The Taxi Cab Authority said they never gave approval for Uber to operate in the valley. Friday five unlicensed drivers were ticketed and their cars were impounded.

“Those vehicles pursuant to statute were impounded because they were used as a taxicab, a limousine or a passenger vehicle,” said Ruben Aquino with SN Taxi Cab Authority.

Drivers for Uber said they didn’t know it was illegal.

“Driving around and getting a ticket for not being authorized, I thought we were going to be. I thought we were going to be starting when they had the okay,” Emerlita Torres, a new Uber driver said.

When asked whether or not they were worried their drivers would be fined, William Barnes, an official with Uber said they were comfortable with moving forward and that “they have a really strong track record of standing shoulder to shoulder with drivers.”

A statement from the company echoed that same sentiment.

“Uber vigorously defends the rights of our partner drivers and firmly stands by them when they are wrongly cited or impounded,” said Eva Behrend, spokesperson with Uber. “We will cover any financial or legal costs associated with these unjust actions.”

Behrend said hundreds of drivers already signed up in the state have passed background checks and vehicle inspections.

Uber drivers tend to be residents who use their own cars and pick up passengers as a part-time job. They get the alerts via their smartphones.

Behrend said rates are typically 10-20 percent lower than typical taxi fares, and will be viewable in the app. The company operates in 224 metropolitan areas, but it’s often met with opposition from taxi companies.

Las Vegas cab executives asked regulators earlier this year to warn Uber of hefty fines for unlicensed cabs.