|Volunteer Taxi drivers and supporters celebrating their company's approval at Mesob Ethiopian restaurant|
by Daniel Horwitz
It's been a very long time coming, but today was a day that the people of Nashville can finally be proud of. After nearly a year of delay and disappointment, today the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission finally stepped aside and granted 61 Ethiopian- and Eritrean-American entrepreneurs permission to operate their own taxi company. These drivers, who first submitted an application for approval of “Volunteer Taxi” last November, walked in today’s TLC hearing making just $2.40/hour and working sixteen-hour work days. At 3:30PM, they walked out feeling like millionaires.
Free at last from the $205 weekly “licks” that they have been forced to pay the owners of Nashville’s now-defunct taxi oligopoly, today’s TLC decision means that each of the Volunteer Taxi drivers will instantly save more than $10,000 per year in unnecessary sublicensing fees. Combined with the savings that they will generate from being able to negotiate group liability insurance premiums, the drivers estimate that the Commission’s decision could put as much as an additional $15,000 in each of their pockets annually.
As soon as VT’s cabs hit the street next month, most of their drivers will also be sitting behind the wheel knowing that they have the security of health insurance for the first time in their lives. Though economists have been saying this for well over two hundred years now, it’s still amazing what a little bit of free-market capitalism can do overnight.
Helping these drivers earn a living wage, and helping them accomplish their lifelong goal of owning their own business is easily one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. As a proud citizen of this country, it’s also one of the most important. Have a conversation with any of Volunteer Taxi’s drivers, and they’ll tell you how excited they were to come to the United States and have a fair shot at achieving the American dream. Now, for the first time ever, they’ll wake up tomorrow realizing that it isn’t just a dream after all.
Daniel Horwitz is a third year law student at Vanderbilt University Law School, where he is the Vice President of Law Students for Social Justice. He can be contacted at email@example.com.