A Letter to Chris Sommers on Uber and Questions for Nebula

Chris Sommers ( one of the owners of Pi Pizzeria) is a great citizen of St. Louis. Committed to making this city a better place with a strong sense of social-justice our city could use more people like Chris Sommers.

I first met Chris as a passenger in my cab. I told him I was boycotting Pi. Chris was patient and asked me why. I told him I was upset over the “no provel” shirts and the “green is the new black” shirts worn by employees. 

I see the “no provel” shirts as hipster snobbery fueled by crusading transplants and self-hating St. Louisans.  If you don’t like St. Louis-style pizza there is a very simple solution…..get the hell out of St. Louis. 

The “green is the new black” slogan (probably made up by white trust-fund babies) is also bullshit. Black is the new black. No green ghettos,  no young green men murdered in the streets on a daily basis, no crisis in the green family, no driving while green. I will go even further and say there is much hostility towards African-Americans and other people of color by many green thinkers and writers.

Now, having said that to Chris he patiently responded and then explained his side of the story.  He told me he didn’t hate provel and agreed there is a difference between black and green. I agreed to rescind my boycott. 

A short time later I took my niece and her parents to Pi in the Central West End after a basketball game. I went back one more time. The pizza is good and the environment is nice; but I still prefer Omar’s, Pironnes,  Faraci’s,  BJ’s,  Imos, and Cecil Whittaker’s St. Louis-style pizza. For New York style pizza Omar’s is also good and I like La Pizza. Chicago style ( lasagna sandwiches) actually my least favorite but it’s still pizza and tastes good.

To the matter at hand….

Chris Sommers with great foresight and courage agreed to voluntarily raise the minimum-wage for his employees to a decent-wage. This was something Chris didn’t have to do. The Tea Party dominated Missouri state legislature isn’t about to raise the minimum-wage. President Obama isn’t about to get an increase through Congress.  Chris just did it because it was the right thing to do.

Just this past week Chris has fought for a crosswalk at Forest Park and Euclid.  Again, he didn’t have to do that. Owning a rapidly growing fancy pizza chain, living in a mansion on Lindell, and probably driving a luxury car ( no less than a Prius and that would be for liberal street-cred) Chris never has to walk anywhere.  Again Chris is just looking out for the people. 

So, I ask this question;  are cabbies not people too? Do we not also deserve a living-wage? Are our families not as dependent on us as the families of those making pizzas? 

Uber ( like Lyft) is designed to drive the wages down for drivers flooding the market with cheap and unprofessional and unregulated labor.  Kind of like cheap ingredients in a pizza. You could pay 5 bucks for a pizza at Little Cesar’s but you pay 30 at Pi for the quality ingredients.  Lyft and Uber want to flood St. Louis with what is the equivalent to Aldi’s frozen pizzas.

I know Chris supports locally-owned businesses.  In fact many  ride-share proponents are Locavores. Cherokee Street,  the hotbed of Lyft support,  prides itself on being all about locally owned businesses. Yet that all gets thrown out the window when it comes to the cab business.

Laclede Cab is owned by Dave McNutt.  Dave rose up from a childhood of poverty in south St. Louis to become a successful businessman.  The vice-president of Laclede spent over 30 years with the St. Louis County police.  The general-manager is a minister in North St. Louis and a former city cop. If that’s not local I don’t know what is.

The owners of County-Yellow,  ABC-Checker,  and the other local companies are also St. Louisans.

Lyft is a San Francisco based company fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars from international bankers. Uber is also not a St. Louis outfit and is also flush with cash from international financiers. 

If Chris Sommers supports local businesses he should support locally-owned cab companies and drivers. Instead of this he has become the front man for Uber in St. Louis.  Disappointed.  Uber is not only bad for cabbies it’s bad for St. Louis.  If Chris wants to really help our city he needs to rethink his position. 

Nebula and The Share Economy

Lyft and Uber are a part of the “share economy”. This bogus trend isn’t about sharing at all. It’s about making money. This economy,  probably invented by some Ayn Rand fanboy,  is about skirting regulations designed to protect the public and workers. It’s also about the new Jim Crow and a way for people to only interact with those who look like them and minimize contact with those outside of their race or social-class.

Go to any article written on Ride-Share then go to the comments section.  Or just search Twitter.  Or pop in a bar and strike up a convo. The biggest complaints about cabbies are xenophobic.  Complaints about the race, religion or attire of drivers are most common. Ride-Share supporters instinctively know that Lyft and Uber drivers will not be professional drivers. They’ll be whiter and more similar to them and that’s what they want.

If Nebula, Chris Sommers,  Alderman Scott Ogilvie and others support taxi chains why not support other chains?  Like Dollar General.  You see Dollar General,  a chain just like Lyft and Uber, is trying to open on South Jefferson at the old Hoods location.  The prospect of a dollar store opening has caused a great uproar from the exact same people who support taxi chains.

Is it about locally-owned versus chains? Or something else. Are these same people in an uproar over Dollar General also against Ikea? Ikea is a chain.  It’s not even American.  Yet Ikea Is getting much love from many in the “shop local” crowd.

So, is it about the stores? Or is it about the customers?  Are you really saying we don’t like who shops at Dollar General and we like who shops at Ikea? Our future vision of the neighborhood is tied to the removal of Dollar General customers.  Is that the message?  Cabbies pick up and take folks from dollar stores all the time.  How many ride-share drivers will be able to say that?

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