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Las Vegas taxi strike having little effect on tourist travel

    A cab driver waits for passengers to arrive at Terminal 1 at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Friday, March 1, 2013. Las Vegas is bracing for a disruption after drivers with its second-largest taxi company called a strike. Drivers at Yellow-Checker-Star Transportation say they plan to walk off the job starting at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

LAS VEGAS » More than 1,000 drivers at Las Vegas’ second-largest taxicab company walked off their jobs Sunday, but the strike apparently caused no immediate major problems for visitors to the major tourist destination.

The strike by drivers at Yellow-Checker-Star Transportation had no apparent impact at MGM Resorts International’s 10 major resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, company spokeswoman Yvette Monet said.

The strike also had no impact on movement of people through McCarran International Airport, one of the nation’s busiest airports, said spokesman Chris Jones.

"There’s going to be lines for taxis, but that’s a normal thing, strike or no strike," he said. "We haven’t seen anything that suggests something beyond the usual."

The strike came during one of the city’s busiest times, with fans taking in four major college basketball tournaments and bettors flocking to sports books during March Madness. In 2012, March topped all other months in tourism, with 3.5 million visitors coming in.

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority spokesman Jeremy Handel declined to comment and referred queries about the strike’s impact to the resorts.

More than a dozen taxi companies with a total of 3,000 cabs operate in Las Vegas. Dispatchers for several major companies — including Frias Transportation Management, the city’s largest with some 1,000 cabs— declined to comment on the impact the strike has had on their business, and said managers would not be available for comment until sometime today.

Yellow-Check-Star was only able to fill two-thirds of its 600 cabs after the strike against it took effect early Sunday, and that percentage was expected to drop later in the day, said company chief operating officer Bill Shranko.

"Of course, it’s impacting our operations," he told The Associated Press. "But we have implemented our last and final offer. There’s not going to be any change in that."

Paul Bohelski, chief negotiator for the union representing drivers, said the main sticking points were pay and working conditions.

About 1,400 of the company’s 1,700 drivers are members of Industrial Technical Professional Employees Union Local 4873, and more than 1,000 of them were participating in the strike, he said. Last month, the company unilaterally implemented a contract rejected by 70 percent of the union members.

"We’re happy that the drivers are maintaining their solidarity here," Bohelski said. "But we wish we didn’t have to strike at all. We’d rather work out a settlement that was acceptable."

About 500 people joined a picket line Sunday outside the company’s facility that was monitored by Las Vegas police. No major problems were reported.

The Nevada Taxicab Authority was taking a neutral position in the labor dispute but was bracing for the worst by authorizing additional cabs if needed. The authority has specifically authorized up to 30 additional operating permits — called medallions — for each of the other 13 cab brands in Las Vegas.

"If temporary medallions are allocated, we will issue a statement at that time," taxicab authority spokeswoman Teri Williams said Sunday. "In the meantime, we will be monitoring any potential impact."

Since 2008, Yellow-Check-Star has increased gross revenues by $13 million annually but has not shared credit card and cab advertising revenues with drivers, Bohelski said. Drivers also are upset over a provision in the new company contract requiring them to work five 12-hour days per week until they have at least six years of seniority, he added.

"That’s just a man-killer. Four 10-hour days are bad enough," Bohelski said.

Shranko said he can’t understand why drivers didn’t accept the new contract because it provides them with free gasoline on the job for the next four years. Other companies make new drivers pay for gas, he said.

"You’re not only being unreasonable but stupid," he said. "Every person would love to have free fuel the next four years. Projections are for fuel to go up as far as $6 a gallon the next 18 months."

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