Taxiing at the airport

Now even a half-dressed Paris Hilton, carrying a bottle of Grey Goose and a chihuahua while eating a ham sandwich will be able to get a cab at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

In a rare display of Minnesota resolve the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) voted unanimously to take a hard line in imposing stricter sanctions on cab drivers who refuse to accept fares from passengers carrying alcohol. While the policy calls for penalties for any driver refusing a fare unless the would-be passenger is drunk or disorderly, it was enacted in response to some Muslim cabbies refusing, on the basis of their religious beliefs, to transport passengers carrying alcohol. A first offense calls for a 30-day license suspension and a second requires a two-year suspension (the previous penalty was that the driver had to go back to the end of the cab-line, which might be as much as a two-hour wait for another fare).

While this policy was written primarily in response to refusals to transport passengers carrying booze —more than 4800 “refusals of service” in the last five years — there have also been incidences of Muslim cabdrivers refusing passengers with service dogs (service pigs would be right out). I think it’s likely the MAC was also concerned that if it permitted refusals-of-service based on alcohol and dogs that it might next be dealing with religious refusals to transport unescorted women, Jewish passengers and arbitragers dealing in pork-belly futures. Therefore the line was drawn, and it’s a hard one.

It’s not clear to me whether the MAC has the authority to keep a cabbie from plying his trade anywhere other than at the airport. There is also the usual talk about this decision being challenged to the Minnesota Supreme Court on the basis of the MAC, being a government organization, is required to make “reasonable accomodation” for religious beliefs. I’m not a lawyer, but I think they have to take it to court first before a case can go to the Supreme Court. Also, the MAC is a customer, not an employer, of the cabbies; don’t know if that makes a difference.

If it goes to court it might make for an interesting ruling that could affect policies such as other governmental organizations (e.g., cities) being able to set terms for prospective vendors on the paying a “livable” wage or having a certain percentage of minority employees and/or owners in order to receive contracts.

As I’ve written before, I have a certain admiration for people sticking to their religious principles on the job, especially if they are prepared to pay the “market price” for their choices. Ultimately if a cabdriver perceives permitting alcohol inside his cab to be on par with, say, selling booze then it might be time to prayerfully consider another career.

One thought on “Taxiing at the airport

  1. One thing I’ve never understood—how do they know people are carrying alcohol. Do they ask every fare what they’re carrying? Are people walking out of an airport carrying bottles of Johnny Walker and waving down taxis? A dog would be obvious, but wouldn’t people just put the bottles into their baggage. Why is it an issue?

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