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Uber car attacked by Paris cab drivers on strike (bizjournals.com)
108 points by geekfactor on Jan 13, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 199 comments

I was in an Uber this morning headed to Charles de Gaulle airport and got to see this all first hand. Hundreds of taxi drivers stopping traffic and flipping off the police while stalling traffic for a bunch of unlucky motorists.

My driver pulled the car over as we approached the airport. He asked me get into the front seat, and then told me we had to act like friends if we were forced to stop and end up getting harrassed. He then went to the trunk and pulled out a pair of his normal clothes and changed right there on the side of the road (Uber drivers are easily recognizable thanks to their fancy attire). Upon settling back into the driver seat, with a big smile and a thick French accent, he said, "I am Batman."

I rated the trip 5 stars.

Today, the real heroes have been those drivers.

That guy is definitely more clever than his paygrade.

How meaninglessly proletarian and small minded. Like the smashing of weaving machines during the industrial revolution. The impossible fight against change and the inexorable march of technology. Also shame on France for imposing a minimum 15 minute delay for picking up a customer. France, where free market competition is second to politics and special interests. Look at the anti Amazon legislation.

You're only partially right.

"Free market" is not really a reality in France; it's not just "second to politics", it is hated for its own sake. Competition is considered a bad thing; the reasoning is that it leads to waste, that resources are better allocated when centrally planed by civil servants who don't have a dog in the race. Many sectors in France still operate exactly like that, in 2014 -- not just taxis; for example if you want to sell cigarettes you have to apply for a licence to the state and you'll only get it if you're far away enough from other cigarette sellers.

It must sound crazy to non-French people but that's just the way it is; is it sub-optimal? Yes. Stupid? Probably. Will it ever change? I wouldn't hold my breath. This is how this country is and thinks.

But, in the case of the taxis, they have a reason to be upset; they all buy their licence for a very expensive price (I believe half a million Euros), usually borrow the money for it and have to somehow pay it back. If they are suddenly out of business or their licence worth nothing, it's a problem.

In order to free this market, the problem of the licence has to be addressed (state buy-back?); or, maybe, the govt. can decide you don't need a licence anymore: taxis will be extremely upset for a while, and then when the dust settles the problem is solved.

In typical French fashion however, the current govt. has decided nothing; non-taxi taxis can operate with a stupid 15 minutes delay, which is supposed to appease the incumbents.

This 15 minutes delay is even worse than it sounds, because it doesn't apply to 4- and 5-star hotels!! (And this is a leftist government). If you want to call Uber from the desk of the George-V you don't have to wait; if however you're calling from Hotel Ibis in Pantin then you do have to wait.

Go figure.

If you want to call Uber from the desk of the George-V you don't have to wait; if however you're calling from Hotel Ibis in Pantin then you do have to wait.

I'm sure lobby groups had nothing to do with this at all.

How does this work with the app? Do they geo-locate you and make sure your phone is sufficiently close to a 4/5 star hotel before sending you a car without delay?

> How does this work with the app?

I'm not sure, but I believe you always have to wait, except if the hotel calls on your behalf and asks for a pickup in front of said hotel.

Ah, OK. I've never used a phone in conjunction with summoning an Uber car (except when the assigned driver has called me).

Small correction : taxi licenses worth 230.000 euros max (in Paris)

230,000 in other notation.

The polite way to internationalize is just to use a space. Then everybody is equally confused.

or just 10 in base 230,000

it's not just the French, in case anyone is wondering

Good point I'll edit it.

> Like the smashing of weaving machines during the industrial revolution

I know, the buggy-whip manufacturers are doomed to be replaced by the... slightly-more-sophisticated app-supported buggy-whip-manufacturers.

Seriously, Uber's success doesn't come from spectacular disruptive technology, they succeed by circumventing the absurd regulatory capture that exists in the taxi market in some cities.

Regulatory capture which exists because, before it existed, taxi drivers used to riot and attack each other.

With potential supply consisting of "everyone with a car", either prices would be driven down to bankruptcy, or with prices fixed by law, demand would be smeared too thin, or (as actually happened) means of limiting the supply would be created (violence and mob links outside the law, or regulation inside it).

The problem is that with the medallion system, you're turning the ability to drive a cab into property. As such, it becomes a /lot/ harder to reasonably control supply, because adding medallions will garner protests from the existing holders, regardless of the needs of the city. Additionally, with the costs of these medallions, it becomes a lot harder for a middle class person to get started in the taxi business; you have to join one of the cartels and curry favor with them in order to have a chance to drive and get decent dispatches.

I'd argue that the best way to handle the taxi drivers of all sorts is to move to a licensing system. Give priority to existing drivers, but at the same time, allow flexibility in setting the supply to give the little guy a chance to compete. Taxi systems in most city are corrupt from top to bottom, and these actions in France just show how the drivers are willing to go along with the broken system at hand.

I came to realize a system like medallions were needed when seeing taxis clog traffic after venues with well paying customers were over. Supply is far more than demand in these cases, and even apps with scheduling won't keep the streets from being clogged beyond reason.

Humans are a funny bunch who overall suck are cooperation, specially when trying the role of a worker ant.

That sounds like a traffic control problem, a public transportation problem, and an event planning problem related to specific events rather than a need for medallions.

Once the people are already there, they need to get home somehow -- what do you expect? How do fewer taxis help the problem?

"That sounds like a traffic control problem, a public transportation problem.."

All those things come into play when regulating how many registered taxis are allowed on the street. Or the decision to regulate at all. Also its one of the sticking points for locales as to why they want to regulate operators like Uber as local planners need to be aware of them and their numbers.

"..and an event planning problem related to specific events"

The venues don't really have a say in who parks out in public streets, they can raise complaints if it becomes a problem though and often try to cash in by hiring services themselves. The more monied customers will most likely not ride the meat bus over to a public transit hub though.

A licensing system would be more flexible there, as you could have categories of licenses to handle different types of demand -- rush hour taxis, etc. With a medallion system, every holder has a heavy financial incentive for their cab to be in service 24/7, due to its very high cost, meaning that during special events, you can and will get an excess in cabs.

"prices would be driven down to bankruptcy"

Ample competition doesn't mean bankruptcy.

Ample competition for a mostly-inelastic price-sensitive demand drives prices right down to break-even (or below), forcing all the small operators out of the market and resulting in consolidation and cartelization.

I am studying economics atm, could you please provide a citation or an example of an industry that competition for mostly-inelastic price-sensitive demand drives prices down to break-even?

If I may: Uber success comes from the feedback mechanism that drives the quality of the ride — at least in Paris. Taxi services are slightly cheaper, and in my case (lived 20 years on the top roaming axis) and all my friends, generally quite fast. I’ve been happy to pay extra to be in a car where the guy doesn’t smoke or actively tries to roll over bicycles, respects road safety, or asks me to support deeply racists views. When travelling, I don’t mind carrying my luggage, but I like to pick it up from a safe place, not the middle of the busiest boulevard. I also occasionally appreciate when the guy doesn’t respond “Where the fuck is that hellhole?!” when I give my address (that happens to be the easiest to locate in Paris — it's literally so symbolic that it's the one used by the taxi union for their official photo).

To be honest, my uncle has access to a premium taxi service: the yearly fee is a bit high for me to consider it, but the service is similar (minus the iDevice charger until recently) and I have no qualms with them. I generally frown on luxury, but common taxi drivers are so horrible creatures that I gladly shell out to Uber when I need to.

Would you be shocked to find out those horrible creatures moon-light with services like Uber? Filthy horrible bunch right?

> slightly-more-sophisticated app-supported buggy-whip-manufacturers

Hard to say. Regular taxis in Berlin have a very Uber-like app, and even though Uber is available here, I've never thought of taking it instead of a regular cab. Convenience level is about the same (though taxis win by being more ubiquitous and probably cheaper)

If you look at it as them managing the economy and the survival of its people, at least putting into place temporary measures to delay the speed of the change, this is the why. France has other mechanisms in place, such as only a certain number of pharmacists serving a population, so then there's not too much competition so a job can exist - instead of perhaps two stressed out pharmacists competing in different ways in order to win over enough consumers. I know it's very different thinking than "free market" - however the U.S. doesn't practice pure free market either, not at all.

> How meaninglessly proletarian and small minded.

How meaninglessly privileged and small minded.

> France, where free market competition is second to politics and special interests.

As it should be. Free market is like a wind, and sometimes you have to protect yourself from it.

politics is like a hailstorm of sharp swords, and you always have to protect yourself from it. Unless you're politically privileged. Come on. France is Especially Bad, a vast majority of civil servants and even worse for high ranking political officials come from the same college (Ecole Sciences-Po).

"Politics (from Greek: politikos, meaning "of, for, or relating to citizens") is the practice and theory of influencing other people on a civic or individual level."

For someone who supposedly hates politics, you seem to be engaging yourself in it quite enthusiastically - as do most people on this site. Or anywhere, really.

I'd comment on your sentence that seems to relate to France if it were a sentence. I think you might be putting low-ranking civil servants in the same bag as oligarchs from the top, which is foolish to say the least. But you generally seem to be confusing politics with oligarchy and/or oligarchy (that part about being politically privileged supports that theory quite strongly). Not sure how you're going to protect yourself from that without, you know, politics.

As a side note, that's why I've started to prefer getting low-to-none-upvotes: in a way shouting into the vacuum is better than answering comments like this one.

excuse me, I should have said "political power" not politics. Nit picking about whether or not a sentence is a sentence. Intelectuellement touche-pepe with the greek roots. Let me guess, are you a Sciences Po? Or worse, an enarque?

Let me guess, you’re a privileged white rich male unwilling to acknowledge your privilege who can’t imagine a less privileged person would ever stand up to them?

I didn’t give you the etymology, I gave you the encyclopedic definition. Which mentions etymology, true. But you are even trying to perform politics and change the balance of power by ridiculing the (imagined) me right now, which is what I pointed out.

Also, seriously, you’re trying to complain about privilege and political power while scorning the workers. That’s ridiculous.

actually, no, I'm asian, I'm a scientist, I'm currently unemployed (but not taking assistance, I'm ineligible, and anyways I saved up knowing this would happen), and I run a non-profit that is attempting to cure cancer. (check my profile if you don't believe me)

> How meaninglessly proletarian and small minded.

You think this violence is representative of the working class? That's a pretty dismal view of a huge part of society.

I'm hoping it's just that you lack a full command of that word...

You should see what the farmers do if there's an attempt to reform the CAP - major riots and they burnt down a town hall the last time.

Violence certainly does not represent the entire working class, but it is rare that you see Wall Street bankers rioting in the street.

> but it is rare that you see Wall Street bankers rioting in the street

That's more about privilege than about class. I'd love to see what Wall Street bankers as a class would come up with if they felt their livelihoods were at risk.

A recession, a bailout, and a capital-making boom while the world recovers, maybe?

Yeah, because if anything hasn't been at risk in the last 5 years, it has been the livelihood of bankers. Oh wait, no, they just jump off buildings.

They riot by calling the White House.

"Too big to fail!" And yet, surprising, not too big to be considered a security threat to the entire United States. My, what lovely clothes you're wearing today, Emperor!

You don't need to riot in the street when you own the street.

"We don't own the street. We are the street."

They commit acts by other means. Why risk your pretty face when you can hire a thug? Why Protest in the street and risk bad publicity, hire someone else to do it. I'm not trying to pass judgment on which is "better" or right/wrong. Simply trying to indicate that different classes have different tools to achieve their aims.

So if you agree the different classes act through different means, then do you disagree that rioting is pretty blue-collar, i.e. proletariat?

Neither do you see the lottery winners rioting.

> it is rare that you see Wall Street bankers rioting in the street.

For the same reason you don't see CEOs snatching purses.

While you might slag their politics off all you like, I've not been in small towns in the UK that still have the incredible sense of community that the French towns do.

Part of that's to do with this sort of protectionism. Capitalism is not a panacea for all ills.

Perhaps it doesn't happen in small towns, but French drivers attacking other French drivers doesn't strike me as a healthy sense of community.

Right?? You would think taxi drivers wouldn't be blind to the possibility of disruption. Look at the music industry and many others. I can't wait for all remaining crap services to be forcefully improved.

"The impossible fight against change and the inexorable march of technology."

The internal combustion engine?

> How meaninglessly proletarian and small minded.

They're not exactly brain surgeons.

So I understand that on of the main points of contention is that the paris cab drivers face steep regulation in the form of requiring an expensive license, while the Uber drivers require no such license, and that to counter this lack of regulation they require the Uber drivers to wait 15minutes before picking up their customer.

But there are still a few things I don't understand: Why do the Paris cab drivers require such regulations? How come the Uber drivers aren't required to have such a license? And maybe I don't completely understand the advantages of Uber (because I've never used a cab before), but at first glance, it seems the main reason uber is succeeding so well, is that there is an app to quickly summon a driver. So why doesn't such an app exist to call these licensed drivers who are so angry?

Taxis are regulated in most countries, typically in exchange for a fee and following a set of regulation they'll get the exclusive right to pick up people on the street.

The precise regulations vary but generally the type of things they include are:

  * Criminal background check
  * Level of city knowledge
  * State of car
  * Prohibited to refuse to pick someone up
  * Prohibited to refuse short journeys
  * Regulated pricing
  * Rules on detours

Most of those regulations don't work anymore though, being a cab driver in 2014 with the GPS and all the technology is not the same as it used to be. In paris I take the taxi mostly to go to the airport (it's too expensive for anything else) and most drivers have to use their GPS to get me there. I would expect a taxi driver to know how to get to the airport from Paris.

I'm not generally against regulation but being french and living in paris I cannot really defend the cab drivers. Riding a cab in Paris is pretty expensive and the drivers are often rude (even by french standards). Many of them try to "scam" you anyway by pretending that their card machine is broken so you have to pay cash or others. If you read french you can find a bunch of testimonies here[1]. The title is "why I don't want to take the taxi anymore".

That being said while I'm in favour of deregulation those people have paid upwards of 200 000 euros for their licenses so I understand that they fight for the status quo.

I wish they would fight by improving their services instead of harassing people though. I wonder how this'll turn out. Maybe the state can reimburse the cost of their licenses? That would seem fair but I really doubt the government would do that in the current economic situation...

[1] http://transports.blog.lemonde.fr/2014/01/12/pourquoi-je-nai...

I can certify that taxi drivers in Paris casually refuse more than half their rides, based on skin color alone — and openly confess that to anyone, no need to ask — and they have committed enough road infraction in any sitting to loose their driving license for good.

Not my experience, but seriously, report them, it's obviously illegal.

I generally use taxis when I'm late for a plane, so the only thing I could do was call:

- Police department say they see issues frequently, but clients are often foreigners, and unable to testify;

- the head office, G7 (because they need to be named and shamed) reaction was that hiring and paying road criminals was not their concern. After making that phone call several times, I support long prison sentences for the executives of that company.

I'd argue that a system that tests on practical taxi driving, such as London's Knowledge would be a much more useful way of vetting taxi drivers than Paris' system of limiting it to whoever can pay a quarter million euros for a medallion.

There is an additional, pretty hard to pass exam.

The problem with cabs is when they are circulating looking for work. They are causing congestion for no real benefit. Regulation caps how much useless congestion there is by capping the number of cabs on the road.

Limo companies don't cause this unneeded congestion because they only go out when they have a job to do, so there is no need to regulate the number of limos on the street. Whether or not Uber should be regulated depends on what their drivers do with their down time. Do they trawl the streets or do they get off of them? It seems like they should get off the road since they can't really pick people up without a reservation. However they may trawl good spots for pickups like near bars or something in which case they are causing unneeded traffic and should be regulated.

most limo services (don't know about uber) offer fixed rates (time or distance). Since Taxis pick you up and start running a taximeter to charge you, that's something that needs to be regulated to make sure that they don't stiff you. If a limo service shows you the route and gives you a quote on the cost, then there would be no need for that level of regulation as well.

There are some regulations that should be there in common, such as protections for the passenger (since you're effectively imprisoned) but stuff like background checks should suffice and I'm pretty sure that Uber and the other companies do this.

That makes sense. So i guess from the perspective of the regulators the options are now either prevent the uber cabs from being flagged down from the street to remove the incentive to roam the street and keep the limo/cab markets separate and ensure the streets remain clearish. Or, remove the regulations, find some way to appease the old cabbies (refund the large license fee), and hope the lack of regulation does not cause huge traffic problems (maybe ticket loitering or cruising, as done in some small towns).

Paris has an incredibly strong Taxi union, which has enjoyed it's monopoly for many decades. Uber cars not being unionized means they are taking money from this massive institution. I think, quite simply, it's cronyism.

Also, the 15 minute wait is because the taxis-by-dispatch are inherently slower. Instead of trying to compete, the taxi union pushed hard on Paris and got them to pass the restriction.

Generally, rather than innovating and trying to compete, the taxi companies in the union have taken the much simpler route of attempting to blockade the upstart.

Agreed. The taxi situation in Paris has been a pain in the ass for a long time. Ever try to get a taxi to go to the train station or airport on a busy day? Sometimes you can't get one b/c of the artificially low number of taxis in Paris. Each successive government in France tries to do something about the taxi unions and fails. Uber will succeed hopefully. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142412788732455780...

    >Also, the 15 minute wait is because the taxis-by-dispatch are inherently slower. Instead of trying to compete, the taxi union pushed hard on Paris and got them to pass the restriction.
Two months ago when Dallas' incumbent Taxi monopoly tried to pressure the assistant city manager into regulating Uber out of the market a 30 minute forced delay was a tactic they tried push through as well (among a few others like using the Dallas Police vice dept. to gin up phoney stings).

Luckily the community rallied, Uber drivers got to continue operating, which everyone but the incumbent viewed as fair since the Uber drivers were already licensed limo operators and the incumbent had some insurance problems exposed when the local reporters picked up the story.

Taxi Unions have dog in the fight. They have paid hefty licensing fees to the govt and ask for rights in return.

If uber pays 1M $ OR 500K Euros for every taxi license, uber will ask much more than what Taxi unions are asking for.

The other way to solve the issue is let govt repay the money to taxi owners and allow everybody to compete on equal footing.

Do you have a source for the $1M taxi license claim? Don't see how this can provide any reasonable ROI… or is this for a large cab company?

EDIT: a below comment posted that it's 230k Euros max in Paris...

Sorry i was not clear. 1 M price tag is for NYC medallion. This article quotes 250K Euros for taxi license in Paris: http://www.rudebaguette.com/2013/08/07/anatomy-of-the-paris-...

I cant speak directly for Paris, but in my home town, one reason we limit the number of taxi cabs is because we've decided (as a society regulating itself) that too many cabs is a social problem. It may sound funny, but imagine a case where there is a lineup of 200 cabs clogging the airport to get that one lucrative fare. Alternatively, outside of a office building to aim for CEOs. They take up a common good that is free (space and to some extent air quality) and therefore are a tragedy of the commons case.

Have you experienced "too many cabs"? How do you know the "social problems" aren't just imagined? How do you know they cannot be controlled in other ways?

You imagine "200 cabs clogging the airport" -- have you seen how cabs work in places where they are plentiful? There's no point in having 200 at an airport at once. They don't take passengers at random, they line up and wait their turn.

If there are a lot of cabs at an airport, the drivers will be better off going into the city and finding a fare there than waiting in a line of 200 cabs.

If there is actually such demand that 200 would "clog" the airport at once, they're obviously solving a problem that isn't being solved by alternative means, such as cheaper and more efficient busses and trains.

Why would drivers aim for CEOs? Cab fares are regulated, so that just leaves tips (something not even customary in many places). They'll get more in a couple hours driving around than waiting for the lottery in the form of an abnormally generous CEO.

This is a good point. In most cities, cabs do not go to the airport unless they have to.

It just isn't a good use of their time - if you drive all the way out there with an empty cab, you've just sunk a whole lot of gas and time on a deadhead when you could have spent the same on picking up several fares downtown. And even when you have someone who wants a ride out to the airport, it's not necessarily something you want to do because then for a return fare you've got to go to the cab stand and take whoever you get wherever they want to go - which could be somewhere way out in the weeds so you still end up stuck with a dead head. That's the reason why in most cities there are actual laws on the books saying cab drivers aren't allowed to refuse to take you to the airport - without those laws, many of them would.

Maybe the specifics of my town are different, it costs ~$60 to go from my house to the airport, thats really good money for 40 minutes / 25kms. Maybe 60 minutes of spent time? (20 minutes to get to me + 40 minutes to get to airport). Expenses on a car are < 50c a km. So $12.50 in auto expenses + $47.50 for 1 hr work.

I never said it was the smartest answer to the solution, merely gave the "reason" behind the politics. W/o the regulation to line up, maybe they wouldnt?

You've made lots of statements about how things would work, which I doubt you could back up w/ evidence.

You want evidence, go visit Taipei. Where's your evidence?

The 2005 article is irrelevant to any point I've been making, and the 2001 article is both ancient and matches not at all my actual experience living in Taipei this decade. Both are from a source with all the integrity of Fox News.

I can't speak for Paris either, but when I was in Accra in Ghana around 10 years ago I found their approach to taxis fascinating. I don't know their regulations for them but they seem to be effectively unregulated.

In that city what seemed like every 10th car or so is a taxi, it'll take you no more than 30 seconds at almost any given point in the taxi to hail a cab. By social convention the cab will stop for you even if it already has passengers, if the passengers are going to a similar location they'll ad-hoc split the fee.

It was cheap enough due to the unregulated nature that you could take a cab for all your trips, and there was almost no incentive to have a car in the city. The number of cars overall was probably drastically reduced, and it was a much more efficient system than any similarly sized metro bus or tram system I've been to in a similarly sized city.

I don't know what the ideal system is, but consider the tragedy of the commons you might be imposing by artificially driving up the price of what might effectively become small ad-hoc point-to-point public transportation in lieu of personal vehicles for everyone, or a larger and less efficient public transportation system.

It seems like if anything resembling a normal, competitive market experienced the situation of "too many cabs" it would self correct quickly as the rates for individual drivers would plummet. Sitting in a line of 200 cabs for one paltry fare would not be a viable way to operate a cab.

Most of those 200 cabs would soon disappear, because a cabbie cannot keep cabbing if he/she doesn't get fares.

I wouldn't be surprised if some folks that own taxi companies in your city lobbied the council-people with that social good argument, as a means to maintain an artificial scarcity and keep cab prices up.

I think a more likely explanation would be incumbents in the cab industry not wanting to see the value of their taxi medallions (for cab companies) or driver permits (for cab drivers) getting diluted. They both stand to maximize their profits if by limiting their competition. And at least for cab drivers, it's not too hard sympathize with them on that front.

But Uber does solve some real problems with traditional taxi service. In many cases it does a better job at solving the problems that might historically have been addressed by just having more cabs, such as it being difficult to get a ride at certain places/times. To that end it would be nice if more cities would allow regular taxi drivers and cab companies to get in on something like UberTAXI so that it can be a better solution for them as well.

200 taxis aren't going to line up for 1 person. That's not how capitalism will tell that tale.

I believe it's more likely that the reason is that scarce resources have a higher value/price.

The society regulating itself (read: taxi unions and politicians) recognizes that if the number of taxis weren't limited, the prices of the fare would go down, usually favouring people which are desperate enough to earn some money (read either young or immigrant). This would drastically reduce the wage of the non-immigrant french/american/italian citizen who has to provide for it's own family.

If the regulation would impose a minimum fare (in order to disallow competition among taxi drivers), there are still concerns that individual taxi drivers would have a bad time competing with taxi companies (with drivers that don't own the car or license).

simple solutions: a gasoline tax or car tax. These are problems with cars, not just taxis/ubers.

I disagree--the problems mentioned were specifically cabs, not cars.

The licenses are limited in number, and re-sold. They’re seen by taxi drivers as a kind of life insurance. Talk about abolishing them or issuing more and, you guessed it, they’ll strike.

This is why regulation is more often bad than good. It always starts out with great intentions and often works well in the beginning, then crumbles over time either do to it's own bureaucracy, it's selective enforcement, or it's crippling effect on technology or markets.

In addition, it's always difficult to evolve the law with the times, or remove it entirely, than to create new ones. So we're left with an ever-growing legacy of non-productive policy.

In general market regulations start out with good intentions, but the protection they afford specific groups eventually tends to seen as a sacred right by those groups. Especially after the first generation--those who could still remember a time without that regulation--have passed on.

The type of regulations that can work well are those that benefit a large number of diverse groups (i.e. financial regulations preventing banks from doing stupid things with their customers' money) whose interests are so poorly correlated that they cannot effectively organize for a monopoly on some special privelege.

"Why do the Paris cab drivers require such regulations?"

Historical and ongoing[1] abuse. The usual reason for regulations.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicabs_of_Mexico#Security_Rec...

That may indicate a need for regulations; I don't see how it validates such regulations, particularly the medallion system.

You would think we would be swimming in discussions of the history of, say, the New York City medallion system. But the only thing I can find are links to a book that I may have to read, Graham Hodges’ Taxi! A social history of the New York City cab driver, and vague references to the Great Depression and strike violence.

"The competition 'was merciless,' according to Hodges, and 'Many cabbies turned to petty crime to help make ends meet.'

"There were strikes, and there were fare wars.

"Ultimately, an alderman named Lew Haas decided to do something about it.

"In 1937, he proposed a bill that would limit the number of taxis to 13,595, and make medallions automatically renewable, tradeable assets. It was signed that year by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia."[1]

"A 1934 strike turned violent, despite various promises of taxi drivers' associations to Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia that peace would prevail."[2]

"Until 1935, the taxi industry in New York was comprised of unregulated companies fighting for dominance. This all changed during the Great Depression. Widespread poverty prompted many New Yorkers to opt for less-expensive forms of transportation, decreasing the demand for taxis. This put many companies out of business and caused many cabdrivers to lose their jobs. The situation was made worse by the tactics of 'wildcat' (unlicensed) taxis who used what some considered to be 'underhanded tactics,' such as drastically lowering fares, to get more business."[3]

[1] http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/politics/2013/01/73990...

[2] http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=14414

[3] http://www.nyc.gov/html/media/totweb/taxioftomorrow_history_...

Paris, where the meter starts when you call the cab. After the second time with 40+ Euros on the meter we stopped calling cabs and flagged one on the street. Third trip we figured out walking was faster.

> Third trip we figured out walking was faster.

Next time, you might try renting a bicycle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%A9lib'

> France has already instituted a rule that requires a minimum 15-minute wait before a service like Uber can actually pick up a customer.

Holy crap. And I thought the "Lang Law" was bad: http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/10/the-anti-amazon-law-is-abou...

Apparently, France also fixes the price of all books to keep it 'fair' for small bookstores.

> Apparently, France also fixes the price of all books to keep it 'fair' for small bookstores.

So does Germany. As well as many other countries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_book_price_agreement

Is this circumventable by shipping form another EU country? Amazon UK ships for free to most of Europe and is AFAIK not bound by these laws, so this is a really strange situation.

Amazon.co.uk seems to charge >5 GBP for shipments to the rest of Europe: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId...

But http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ (acquired by Amazon in 2011) offer free shipping worldwide

It is only interesting if you want to buy english books most of the time. The prices of books are not excessive in France despite this law.

The rule is not active yet and has not many chances to be effective.

Saw the tweets this morning, a bit terrifying. Humanity always somehow surprises me in its capacity for meaningless violence.

Sadly, they probably see the uber drivers as scabs. Even though that's like if the Police went on strike, and started beating up employed security guards...

In this case, they ARE scabs.

How so? Are they Taxi drivers? Are Taxi drivers in Paris in a Industrial Union or a Craft Union?

Do you feel like their violence against other citizens are justified?

Fear of survival for yourself and your family? How's that meaningless? Perhaps misdirected, though clearly they're worried.

The fear isn't meaningless, but the violence is. There is no reality where smashing the windows on a cab is going to change their situation.

Its not meaningless, just misdirected. Perhaps directing their angst at their own government which instituted these regulations would be a good start...

Makes other people less likely to drive for Uber, eh?

You mean just like setting fire to schools for girls will make it less likely that girls get educations?

Well, it will. That action is many things, but it's not meaningless.

Exactly like that, except against regulatory arbitrage rather than the religious suppression of women.

So this is the point where I say 'so terrorism is allowed when it's against something you disagree with', and you say 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter'?

I suppose, I guess almost all violence then becomes meaningful too. I guess unnecessary would be the better word.

Though really I just don't want to live on this planet anymore.

So keep engaging with it and helping lead it to change through example. However if you get tired of that, I hear there are applications to live in Mars. I have ambitious long-term plans to help impact this in a practical way if you're interested in hearing. I'm living in Toronto currently too. It feels like I am quite far away from having the team together I will need to execute it all, though hoping it's only around the corner.

And for taxis themselves; people who destroy other companies cars are not my favorite drivers.

to be fair, it's not meaningless. it's very much done to instill fear into the Uber drivers, who they most likely see as scabs.

Protests and aggression are close friends in France.

For example, kidnapping the boss to prevent layoffs (or at least get better severances) is something that happens regularly.

Except it's not really kidnapping, it's more like theater... A real kidnapping (physically restraining anyone) would be handled by the RAID or GIGN.

Don't get me wrong, French unions are mostly wrong on about everything, but violence against individuals is still a big no-no. Thankfully.

Can you clarify? It looks pretty real to me


It looks like the police don't get involved for political reasons.

How is it a no-no if the linked article provides a prime example of violence by taxi union members?

vandalism != violence against an individual

AFAIK, no one was hurt. And the union status of the taxi drivers involved got little to do with the case, pretty sure all taxi drivers, unionized or not, feel the same about people that chose to do the same work as they do, without respecting the same rules as they are.

Learn your definitions, will you?

Violence is "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.

If they are on strike the Uber driver is a scab. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo70qkxzelA

One presumes that the Uber driver isn't part of their union.

Yes, he's in the same business, but radio cabs are a competing arm compared to licensed taxis.

Not being a member of the union and working during a strike is the definition of scabbing.

Ah, ok. What about if someone's in a business providing substitute goods or services?

e.g. cafeteria workers are on strike, so the org orders pizza instead - are the pizza makers and delivery people scabs? Or is that just a work-around?

If your pizza delivery driver crossed a picket line, yes, he is scabbing.

Yes, they are scabs and should decline to make and deliver pizzas.

What are the "rules" about this? I often see people arguing against scab labor with real fervor, but how is this defined? And who decides where to draw the line?

e.g. continuing with the cafeteria example, if people decide to go off campus and purchase food at a different establishment, are those food workers then considered scabs? Or is it only scab labor if it's hired as a temp replacement by the company against whom the workers are on strike.

And back to the original example, what happens a person needs to get to the airport, or to work? The challenge with substitute goods and services (e.g. Uber or gypsy cabs or other app-based car services, in place of licensed cabs) is that a monopoly gets marginalized and a strike is less effective. But what's a person supposed to do who needs to be transported from A to B? Not call Uber?

It is a simple definition, a scab is a person who accepts work that undermines the union. This can be refusing to join the union, accepting less pay or crossing the picket line and working.

So a restaurant worker not refusing to feed a student off campus would not undermine the shutdown of the on campus cafeteria. But any attempt to recreate the cafeteria by the school, on or off campus, would.

You should do the best you can to do nothing that could undermine the strike. A key is who do you complain about and complain to. If public transit workers are on strike, which makes your commute worse, do you blame the workers or complain to the management.

If public transit workers are on strike, which makes your commute worse, do you blame the workers or complain to the management.

In that case, I'd probably just call Uber. Or a cab. ;)

Not if your service is different - the Uber driver isn't a taxi driver, he's a private car driver. It's like saying people going to work at a gas plant are scabbing when coal miners are striking.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm getting at with my line of questioning.

If a person works in an industry that creates a substitute for the products or services of a unionized industry, is he or she a scab worker? Obviously, when the company hires temp replacements, that's very direct. But if a new industry makes an old industry irrelevant, using that kind of critical language seems like an unfair attack on the workers in the new industry.

Right, and so are bus drivers, because they also provide a similar service.

And limo drivers, public transport employees in any capacity, friends who give other friends rides...

When you are the beneficiary of what would otherwise be called a protection racket if it weren't state sponsored, it's easy to be angry when others don't pay the protection money and get away with it.

That means they should be subject to violence?

You violent extremists are true scum.

Yes, so they deserve to be assaulted!

"Deserve" doesn't really have anything to do with it. Violence and labor disputes have a long history together. You keep a man from feeding his family at your own peril. I'm sure the perpetrators would be perfectly willing to stand trial for assault and property damage, maybe they already have.

>I'm sure the perpetrators would be perfectly willing to stand trial for assault and property damage, maybe they already have.

How honorable. It's hard to earn a living, it always has been. That doesn't give people the right to use violence to stop other people competing with them. The more violent person is not entitled to an easier life.

Rights? Entitlement? How does that have anything to do with it? Your sense of justice cannot be translated to the real world. If someone's willing to face society's punishment, then there's nothing you can do to stop them.

Oh, they finally realized there are better alternatives for people and got angry...

Yes, I heard that the same thing happened to a driver from "Chauffeur Privé" at the Orly airport. Wind mirror broken, nothing serious, but it's crazy how the taxi drivers do not care about the situation and want to keep their monopoly. The French company "Taxis G7" is a powerful lobby and they still decide everything for every taxi driver in France. Instead of changing, ugprading, offering new (and better !) service to their passengers, they try to scare the new comers. And seriously, it would not be difficult to improve the service in French cabs : remove the bad smell, remove the racist jokes, shutdown the loud radio talking about the latest soccer game which not everyone listens to, learn to say hello/thank you/goodbye, etc.

accept credit card payments..

I can't imagine the situation when driver-less cars will hit on the roads .

Try to read the first paragraph in this article[1] to understand better how technology improvements were handled in the past in France:


It demanded that for each new computer, Le Monde should pay for one print worker to type on the keyboard and another simultaneously to watch the screen. It got its way.

This sounds like a joke made up by a Tea Partier about how unions cut efficiency. I can hardly believe it.


Socialism at it's best.

its* best. If you're gonna fight the stupidities of socialism, please represent well.

What does it have to do with socialism? Stupid people do stupid things no matter what is their government.

what does this has to do with socialism?

While i condemn the violence, i have hard time justifying uber as a new revolution or advancement of technology.

Medallion owners pay close to 1.0 M $ to get the Taxi license from the city (NY) and they are not doing that for charity. If a new middlemen like Uber try to take the market without paying single dime it is bound to cause issues who have played by rules and invested significant money to acquire the license.

Uber simply tries to aggregate the demand side and demand concessions from the supply side to get the leads. Portraying Uber as egalitarian is wrong in so many levels.

It's sad how often "Regulation and taxes are for other people" gets relabeled as "Disruption". See: Uber, AirBnB

Right, but it is not always uber that is at fault; maybe paying a million dollars to drive a taxi is where the problem is?

This is one of the reasons that people don't cross picket lines.

Good people won't cross them out of principle. The unprincipled among us may encounter other obstacles. It is very likely this driver got his just deserts.

This is like McDonald's workers going on strike and attacking a Wendy's employee for going into work.

You're saying that you're ok with someone being subjected to violence because he just did his job as he does every day, but other people who did similar but different jobs happened to think that he should have stayed home that day. I doubt you'd think the same if a competitor of yours went on strike and attacked you for going into work.

Saying that the driver here got his "just desserts" is a truly disgusting and reprehensible attitude that is not fit for a civilized society. When a larger group of people can organize and use violence to subject smaller groups to their will, you no longer live in a free society.

In this case, the airport is their work site.

If a Wendy's employee attempted to cross a McD's picket line to work at the McDs, things would not go very well.

An airport is public infrastructure largely paid for by tax money collected from the citizenry. A McDs is a private business owned and operated privately.

Even if the analogy were valid, if McDs employees on strike committed violence against someone crossing their picket line, it would be both illegal and immoral. Defending violence as somehow being ok because some group is on strike and gets angry at those who aren't is abhorrent.

The airport exists at and is allowed operated at the will of the government and citizens of France of which the cab drivers are merely a small part. No single union could ever claim the exclusive rights to transportation to and from the airport it as their worksite. That's an absurd analogy.

The taxi union is actually used to having a monopoly on travel to the airport[1][2]. So they actually have been able to claim that exclusive right, as absurd as it seems, for a long time.

[1] http://www.connexionfrance.com/paris-taxis-keep-monopoly-cha...

[2] http://thenextweb.com/eu/2011/05/07/disruption-in-france/#!r...

> Good people won't cross them out of principle.

Can you explain why? I fully respect workers' right to unionize and strike, but there's no reason I should be bound by their strike.

For me it's more about a respect for the struggle we went through a hundred or so years ago, to get through to what's really a more civilized time.

The early days of unionization, and the conditions that led up to them, were horrific. Forced labor, private and gov't armies shooting workers, beatings, below-living wages. Workers fighting back proportionally: strikes, destruction of corporate property, retaliation against scabs... The civilized workplace we have today -- 40 hour weeks, paid overtime, OSHA, banning of child labor, living wages -- was paid for with blood.

> For me it's more about a respect for the struggle we went through a hundred or so years ago, to get through to what's really a more civilized time.

Wow, you must be the oldest person on hacker news!

For your consideration.


So tell me - what was your role in these events? You said that you went through these struggles, so I'm curious what you contributed?

Do you understand how strikes work? It is gasp a form of DISRUPTION. Solidarity with the strikes by not crossing the line improves their chances of success.

What happens when you don't agree with the strike?

Then you can take your chances trying to cross.

Why should I care about improving their chances of success?

Do you want people to tell you why they care, or why you should care?

You may be philosophically against all of the labor rights that have been gained through strikes (which are all labor rights), and in that case, you shouldn't care. In fact, in that case you should go out of your way to break strikes like homophobes went out of their way to eat at Chick-Fil-A.

I'm not philosophically against the labor rights that have been gained through strikes, not at all.

But I honestly don't see why that should be related. Just because strikes have been a great tool to achieve important rights doesn't mean every individual strike is that way. If a strike is pointless, stupid, or actively campaigning for something I disagree with, why should I respect it?

Every answer I've received so far has been some variant on, "strikes were used to obtain things you now enjoy, so you should respect all strikes." This makes no sense. It's like saying we should respect the NSA because its predecessors helped defeat the Nazis by cracking Enigma.

Sure, even I don't support every strike. Like when police go on strike to demand better weapons.

But police aren't workers... So, yea.

If you are a worker you should because improvements eventually expand to non-striking workers in the same field and other fields and because they would do the same for you if you needed support.

If you are a capitalist, you wouldn't.

It's a big assumption that improvements eventually expand to others. Yes, some have in the past, but that doesn't mean they all do, or all will.

There's also a massive unstated assumption that there is an improvement at all.

Surely if I happen to disagree with one or both of these assumptions, I can cross a picket line without being a "bad person"?

If you cross a picket line, you have publicly cast your lot with a particular class. Whether you are a bad person is in the eye of the beholder.

You previously said that good people would avoid crossing a picket line out of principle. Now you seem to be saying that the reason to avoid crossing a picket line is because stupid people with a mob mentality might get the wrong message.

I, personally, would consider you a bad person for crossing a picket line. You, or some other person, might feel differently. Whether you accept my assumptions, or the picketers' assumptions, doesn't determine how you will be judged by others.

Why would you consider me to be a bad person for crossing a picket line in general?

In general you are siding with capital. Assuming it isn't a police strike.

What benefits will spread to me via existing taxi drivers violently maintaining an inefficient and predatory monopoly?

This isn't about a 40-hour workweek.

Because that’s strike-breaking. Because you don’t need many strike-breakers to break a strike. I don’t think it should be illegal (barring corruption, of course), but I do think it should be scorned.

You have an interesting view on the situation.

I'm relatively certain that I have different views than you on the usefulness and appropriateness of unions in the modern world, but I appreciate your counter-position on the thread here.

And, scorn is certainly merited from strikers toward strike-breakers. Scorn from non-strikers toward strike-breakers is for the individual to decide based on their opinion of the strike and the union striking, obviously.

That's not an answer. "Why X?" "Because X."

It's an us-vs-them thing. The idea being you are on the same team as other workers, whether or not you are part of their strike.

Supporting violence is the quickest and easiest way to lose people like me who are otherwise be supportive of the right to organize. There is no excuse for this behavior, and calling the victims of unprovoked violence "unprincipled" is absolutely irredeemable.

So, because he drives for Uber instead of a traditional taxi company he deserves to have his car destroyed and to get beaten up? How do you figure?

This isn't a bunch of striking coal miners who are protesting hazardous working conditions. This is an established incumbent who is trying to bend the regulations to stamp out an innovative service that is beating them out by offering a better customer experience.

When you opt out shelling out the mandated by 240k € for the medallion, plus whatever it takes to pass the taxi driver exam, before you can even started to work, you can offer a lot better service...

Anyone thinking Uber plays fair in this instance is deluded... Which doesn't mean the system doesn't need urgent reform...

Isn't the point of having an expensive medallion and driver exams that you have vetted drivers who can then offer superior service? If it's not accomplishing that and we're getting better service from the drivers who have found a loophole around, then what is the point of having that in the first place? Maybe just to create an artificially limited supply and line the pockets of the gatekeepers?

There is likely no point anymore, pretty much everyone agrees about that. But how do you transition to a new system in a fair manner?

It would be painfully expensive for the government, but I wonder if the best solution might just be to take the fair market value of the medallions at some recent point in time and then use that value to buy out all the existing owners.

In NYC, medallions go for about a million bucks these days, and there are over 13,000. So this plan would cost the city $13 billion, or about 1/3rd of the city government's yearly budget. That's a huge amount of money, but not completely out of the question.

Turn each legacy medallion into a license and an interest-bearing municipal bond. Then start auctioning a limited number of new medallions each year with the understanding that the medallion system ends completely in, say, 20 or 30 years.

The auctions will still raise a nontrivial amount of money, especially in the first few years, which can be used to help fund bond payments and/or repurchase some of the bonds outright.

Not that I'm involved with Uber or speak for them in any way, but I think they'd be just as happy to have taxis in their app as black cars. I know they do where I live though not all the taxi companies participate. What's stopping the French cabs from taking dispatches from UberTaxi and offering a lower price than the black car service?

Make a medallion required for 30 days out of this month, 29 days out of next month, 28 days out of the next month, etc, until in 30 months, medallions are not required at all.

Can't a good person disagree with the strikers in a particular case? Why does walking around holding a sign mean that your cause is just? Is it wrong to help escort patients through the pickets in front of abortion clinics?

I am pretty sure you can both be principled and think that their strike is stupid. Or by principled do you mean "shares a specific set of principles that I also share"?

>The unprincipled among us may encounter other obstacles.

Too ashamed of the violence you promote to be explicit about it huh? People like you belong in prison.

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