ST. LOUIS – Cab drivers are finding it harder to survive with the rise of Uber and Lyft. Many are immigrants who say they’re thankful for a job that saved their families.
Most drive passengers from St. Louis-Lambert International Airport, where you’ll see a long line of cabs waiting for passengers. They pay big bucks to be there, almost $600 a month in a combination of fees to the airport and for premium insurance required by the St. Louis Taxicab Commission.
Many are immigrants who left good paying jobs in their home countries.
“I’m here for my kids,” said Melaku Tamir, who was an accountant in Ethiopia.
A fellow Ethiopian, Tekesta Chefik, worked in the mining industry in his homeland.
“It’s just a stable life; the kids going to schools,” he said.
Joshua Osho, a former banker in Nigeria, added: “Everybody wants to be part of the American dream.”
Osho is now a St. Louis Taxi Cab Commissioner. He’s tasked with making sure cabbies follow the rules.
“We believe in…the rule of law. You have to follow the rules and the guidelines. So, we believe it is not appropriate for anybody to break the law,” he said.
Osho said that means having the proper license, which a cabbie gets when he pays for required insurance coverage and passes a background check. You should ask for a driver’s taxi license before getting into a cab. You should also check the back window for a permit sticker.
Uber and Lyft drivers do not have to play by the same rules or pay the same fees.
Osho says cabbies can do well, but there are times, he says, when they’ll only get a few fares and only about $100 during a 12-hour day.
He says immigrants are attracted to it because of the flexibility. They can focus on their families.
“Driving a cab is flexible and gives them the opportunity to get into this society,” he said.
Osho says he reached the American dream he hoped for 20 years ago. He says his son went to Mizzou and then joined the United States military.
“It’s just such a joy,” he said. “We contributed to this country.”
It`s a story you’ll hear again and again from immigrant cab drivers. They came for better schools for their kids and it made a grueling and unpredictable job - rewarding.