SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) – The battle between San Francisco taxi drivers and Uber took center stage Monday as taxis drivers protested a visit to the company's headquarters by mayors for other cities.
The mayors were attending a national conference in San Francisco. The group got to tour three high-tech companies, including Uber. The city's ailing cab industry was waiting for them with noise and fury.
Though the cabbies are fighting for their economic lives, it may be too late unless things drastically change.
San Francisco taxi drivers rallied and picketed at Uber's Market Street headquarters Monday afternoon. A steady procession of cabs circled the rally as well. Their stated goal was to warn every mayor who's attending the National Conference of Mayors not to tour Uber headquarters.
"We thought we should warn the mayors of the country what it means if you let Uber into your community; what the harm is," said Kim Waldron of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance.
The taxi workers said Uber and other companies like it are choking the streets with wandering cars that pollute the air. They added that ride sharing companies are not equipped to pick up the disabled or transport their service animals for free.
They also say that taxi firms and drivers must meet far higher licensing, insurance, tax and other requirements than ride sharing firms.
"They do not serve all the community; they serve just part of the community," said SF taxi driver Chakib Ayaz.
When the mayors arrived, they were greeted by jeers and calls of shame on you. But a spokesperson for Uber argued the company provides benefits for cities.
"What we've be able to show the mayors here and in all the cities that were in -- we're in 70 percent of the U.S. right now -- is that we bring positive impact to cities where Uber is," said chief Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend.
The mayor of the Wisconsin city of Madison, Paul Soglin -- himself a former cab driver -- is no Uber fan. KTVU spoke with him by phone. Soglin called Uber a resource for the elite, not folks needing to get to medical appointments and grocery stores.
"Uber is only there to cherry pick; only to take the high-priced events and they're not there for what is really the bread and butter of the industry in most cities," said Soglin.
After leaving Uber, the mayors went across the street to tour Twitter.