Some Prince George's cab drivers strike

By Hamil R. Harris and Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 17, 2009; 2:46 PM

Antonio Coats usually has no problem finding a taxi as he leaves the New Carrollton Metro station. So when the 21-year-old barber came out of the station early Tuesday, he was surprised that not a single cab was available.

"I don't know what is going on, normally the cabs are already out here," said Coats, who didn't realize that a number of Prince George's cab drivers skipped work to protest the share of revenue kept by the county's cab companies.

The strike, however, proved more a nuisance for customers than anything else. Coats had to wait only about 10 minutes to get a cab because many drivers chose to work despite the strike.

"It is not hurting us, we still have plenty of cabs," said Andrea Mahoney, a supervisor at Silver Cab.

Tuesday morning, dozens of the cab drivers drove to Upper Marlboro to stage a protest and lobby members of the Prince George's County Council at the County Administration building. But some went right back to work.

"I went to Upper Marlboro, but I have meter calls that I have to get," said Fiseha Abebe, who drives for Silver Cab. "We need our own cabs; we don't want to rent because most of our money goes to the company."

A comprehensive bill was introduced by the County Council to address some of the drivers' concerns, but the legislation was shelved while a task force studies the issue. Some drivers say that's an insufficient response.

"The bill's complicated, and the majority of the council members felt the task force would help weave through the complex issues," said council member Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel), who supported the legislation. "Even the bill that I proposed had the potential for unintended consequences. I wish we would have acted this year, but at this point, I'm okay with more study."

He said the task force is supposed to finish its work by March.

County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) recently met with the drivers, Johnson spokesman Jim Keary said.

"I don't know why the cab drivers are protesting," Keary said. "The county executive met with the cab drivers two or three weeks ago and he understands their plight. It is disingenuous for them to do this now because this government has been working with them."

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