Shift Worker Series
Shift workers notoriously struggle with #sleep disturbance, and driving a taxi is one of those jobs that often includes working all through the night. 45-year-old Garin Campbell is a taxi cab driver in Portland, Orgeon, who works regular shifts through a taxi company. He’s also managed to build ongoing relationships with clients, for which he tries to be on call 24 hours a day, despite his schedule. It means that work sometimes cuts into time he’d planned to spend with his wife. “I try and not work weekends as much as I can, because it’s time I have with my wife, but I will go out and do a run on the weekends for the people I know need rides who are repeat customers,” Campbell said. “I take care of them.”
But a new challenge has arisen for cab drivers in recent years. We’ve all heard of the controversial on-demand ride-sharing App UBER. Worldwide, cities have started banning the App because of these concerns, and worries that drivers are being unfairly compensated and illegally classified as independent contractors, absolving the company of minimum wage laws, providing benefits, and mandatory breaks. But so far, the media hasn’t focused on what this app means from the original ride sharing service: taxi cabs.
Campbell explains that the influx of Uber in Portland has hit his company especially hard. Calls are down by thirty percent. It’s why Campbell is on call 24 hours a day. The decrease in business means that Campbell and his colleagues have to be available whenever the calls come because they can’t earn enough in a normal 8 or 12-hour shift to make a living, “They’ve got some place at 3 o’clock in the morning, I’m gonna be there,” Campbell explained. “I don’t know what my business is going to be like outside of that.”
The need to be on call all the time affects Campbell’s life in other ways, too. His wife is on disability, and she needs him to be available for doctors’ appointments. So far, they’ve been able to make it work, “I have to make sure that I’m around when she’s got appointments,” Campbell said. “I’ve been pretty lucky to where they haven’t conflicted much, so that’s a good thing, but I know that there’s times when it does and I have to rearrange things here and there. We get through it,” he said. But with Uber in the area drawing two-thirds of the business away from cab companies, it’s unclear if they’ll be able to make it work much longer.
All the stress and the need to be available 24-hours a day is affecting Campbell’s health, too. He’s not as young as he was in 2008, when he was laid off from his job as an operations manager and started driving a cab to support his family. Sleeping lighter so that he doesn’t miss a call is definitely starting to take its toll. “I feel a lot different health-wise than I used to when I got a full night sleep,” Campbell says. “Feeling more run-down… That could just be turning 45, I don’t know.”
Campbell doesn’t have a plan to deal with Uber’s rapid advance. He’s just hoping that customers and Uber will start to think about the toll the service is taking on the economy, not just for their own drivers, but for traditional cab drivers as well.