Approve new penalties for refusal of service motivated by prejudice
LOS ANGELES – Councilmember Bob Blumenfield today pushed Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) to hold taxi drivers to new standards of accountability, as Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved new zero-tolerance rules for race-based taxi discrimination.
In October, Blumenfield called for an investigation and an action plan to eliminate instances of refusal of service by taxi drivers on the basis of race following an op-ed by ESPN commentator and former Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville. Glanville, who is African-American, described being refused service by a taxi driver at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) who suggested that Glanville should “take the bus,” instead. An airport employee told Glanville that it was the third time she had witnessed a driver refuse service to a black passenger over the course of her shift.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that everyone who travels to our City is treated with equity and fairness regardless of the color of their skin," said Blumenfield, who chairs the Council committee that oversees the airport. “In this day and age, in our City, we must stand against prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination.”
LAWA led an investigation in response to Blumenfield’s motion and confirmed fears that discrimination was occurring undetected. Los Angeles Airport Police sent undercover African-American plain clothes officers into the LAX central terminal area to conduct a “secret shopper” investigation. The task force approached 25 taxicab drivers to request service. Five of those requests were refused. LAWA gave these shocking results to their contracted taxi coordinator, Authorized Taxi Supervision (ATS), who increased penalties for trip refusals in response.
The new zero-tolerance policy was approved in the form of an amended contract between LAWA and ATS that makes explicit new penalties and enforcement mechanisms designed to eliminate refusals of service motivated by prejudice, including immediate revocation of the driver’s permit to provide taxicab service at the airport. Additionally, ATS is now required to notify LAWA of all complaints and disciplinary actions taken. Blumenfield has previously requested LAWA to consider additional penalties that would apply to the taxi companies themselves, as well as the drivers.
“We can’t and won’t tolerate prejudice in any form and are committed to rooting it out wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. Together with LAWA, the City is confronting the problem of race-based taxi discrimination head-on,” concluded Blumenfield.