PORTLAND -- Taxi drivers demonstrated in Portland Wednesday to protest what they call "kickbacks" to town car drivers for servicing downtown hotels.
About 30 drivers caused minor traffic disruptions as they gathered near Southwest 3rd Avenue and Southwest Pine Street, outside the Embassy Suites hotel. Signs reading "Stop hotel corruption" and "Don't cheat us" were among those displayed in their taxi windows.
Drivers hoped to bring attention to the practice, in which hotel valets are reportedly paid by town car and cab drivers to get the more profitable long-distance customers, specifically those going to Portland International Airport.
The City of Portland confirmed the practice is taking place and said the city's regulatory division is working to prohibit such payments. Spokeswoman Kathleen Butler added that it's a problem in many major cities.
A spokesman for the driver's union said Wednesday protest was the first in a series of demonstrations he hopes will spur the city to act quickly on the issue.
"This kickback scheme causes lost revenue to honest drivers, delays to unsuspecting customers, and outright fraud as unscrupulous drivers cheat passengers to make up for the payoff," said Red Diamond of the Cabdrivers Alliance of Portland. "The Transportation Board approved an anti-kickback ordinance last year. But 13 months later Mayor Adams has yet to sign it into law."
He said the city wants to put 132 new taxis on the street, but the demand is not strong enough to support that many new drivers. Diamond pointed out that a January 2012 City of Portland study confirmed cab drivers make less than minimum wage.
Butler said a hearing on the "kickbacks" and the additional licenses was scheduled for November 7 at 2 p.m.