NEWARK - Hundreds of taxi drivers in Newark staged a protest in front of City Hall to show that they are displeased with the deal city officials made with ride-sharing programs Uber and Lyft.
The protest started around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, with the taxis driving around City Hall at a crawling pace. Drivers told News 12 New Jersey that it was meant to cause a traffic jam.
Dozens of the drivers then approached Mayor Ras Baraka and the Newark City Council before the council meeting Wednesday night and angrily taunted them. The drivers also shouted chants expressing their anger.
Last week, Newark officials made a deal with Uber that would allow ride-sharing companies to pick up passengers at Newark Penn Station and Newark Liberty International Airport. Uber will have to pay a $10 million fee and also require background checks for its drivers.
City officials say that they are pleased with the deal and that it should be a model for how the entire state deals with Uber.
Union president Lionel Leach says that with thousands of Uber drivers converging on Newark, traffic will be much worse in the city.
“We’re asking the council and the mayor to revisit the situation,” Leach says. “Let’s have a real dialogue. Let’s bring everybody to the table so it’s fair and equitable for everybody on a level playing field.”
The drivers and union leaders say that the city won’t allow any more taxi medallions to be purchased. They also say that the Uber deal cuts down on the value of the taxi medallions that already exists.
“Money talks…if they didn’t get nothing from Uber, why do you allow them?” asks driver Hany Elgenedy.
Elgenedy also says that Uber will kill the taxi drivers’ business
However, some Newark residents say that they are happy Uber will be allowed to operate in the Brick City.
“It’s cleaner and I can watch it on my phone,” says resident Latrice. “If I put my daughter in an Uber, I can see everywhere they’re going.”
The City Council returned legislation on the Uber deal to the city administration, which is negotiating with all sides. The cab drivers at the protest had no reaction to that move. Many say they just feel betrayed by the city.