I was raised in a union household. My father was a teacher for 30 years and a union member the entire time. He is still active in the union in his retirement. My mother has worked for a teachers union for more than 20 years. I am a union member as well.
But don’t worry, this blog post isn’t going to be some lefty union pitch. I’m going to tell you a story about a group of union cab drivers that make it easy to understand why the other side can dislike unions.
We had spent morning in the pool getting a quick refresher course on SCUBA diving. We had an hour to kill before our transportation arrived to take us to our dive location. We’ll save the back story of the dive location for another post.
The transportation they arranged was already running late to pick up our small group of divers. The short lunch break had already turned into an hour and a half when the van finally arrived. The van looked a lot like the ones we used to use to transport rafters to and from the river when I was a whitewater guide; a big Ford or Chevy Econoline van with several bench seats.
We got the word to load up and noticed the sense of urgency in the driver’s voice, even though we didn’t understand what he was saying. We had almost completed our boarding when two rather perturbed taxi drivers approached. We sat quietly as a long and sometimes heated discussion went on between the drivers. Our driver at one point tried to pull out but was physically blocked by one of the cab drivers standing in the road.
You see, the taxi cabs in Playa Del Carmen and most of Mexico are union-organized. The van picking us up was not part of the union and the curb in front of the dive shop was officially a taxi stand. We were eventually told to pile out of the van and sit in the shade of the dive shop while the dive shop manager, our van driver, and the taxi drivers worked things out.
At this point our dive had been delayed for two hours. There wasn’t much to do other than wait. I did recognize this as a good blog post opportunity, so I took a stroll to snap some pictures. The dive instructor was a little nervous that I would irritate the cab drivers even more, but Amanda assured him that I had plenty of experience taking pictures in sensitive situations.
The cab drivers eventually worked out that we would go to our dive location in two separate taxis. We had to make sure we had dry things to sit on so we didn’t mess up their seats with our wet clothes. I got nervous for the small taxis and their small tires as we rolled across the uneven and sometimes rocky road on the way to the cenote. The van we had hired had a much higher clearance and larger tires that would not have had any difficulty with the trip. The gear had gone ahead in a pickup truck.
I hate wasted time. I hate that we had to sit for almost 2 1/2 hours before we could even head to the dive site. I understand that the cab drivers are just trying to make a living. But it was ridiculous to physically hold up a vehicle that had worked out an arrangement with a individual or company from carrying passengers just because they were not a member of the union or because they got too close to the “union authorized” zone. I would have just said “please don’t park here again. If you’re going to pick up passengers you need to do it around the corner.” I guess it’s just my non-confrontational style to ask instead of making a commotion.
I can understand why some people do not like unions. I understand — especially from experiences like this, which in some countries is far too common — why some people think they have too much power. But I also remember of all the good things they have done such as arguing for fair wages and working hours. Plus, particularly in Mexico, your union cab is both heavily regulated and safer than some of the alternatives.