In its second and final day, the D.C cabdrivers strike wilted yesterday in day-long heat and humidity, the victim of what strikers and their leaders agreed was poor organization, a lack of unity among hackers and an already slow season for cabbies.
Strike leaders thus failed in their effort to exert enough pressure on the D.C. Public Service Commission to win an immediate far increase.
"It's almost a hopeless situation," said Norman Saunders, spokesman for the Alliance of Taxicab businessmen, who spoke to a reporter at 10 a.m. "Drivers told us they would honor the strike, but a lot of them are working on the streets."
By noon, strike leaders conceded that the strike was over because a significant number of the city's 7,000 cabdrivers had taken to the streets, creating a business-as-usual atmosphere.
Charles Ramsey, a Potomac Cab driver who waited at the Mayflower Hotel for passengers, said that "Monday, I struck because I agreed with the strike (but) when I found out that the strike was ineffective because of disunity, I decided to work today."
"One group said strike, another group said don't strike," Ramsey said, holding up a prostrike flyer distributed by the Independent Taxicab Drivers Association and an antistrike flyer from the Professional Cab Drivers Association. "I lost money yesterday. The whole thing was not properly planned. We should not have done it."
Alex Gardiner, a Yellow Cab driver, said, "I thought everyone would strike. I'm a member of the Independent Taxicab Drivers Association, and they let me down because the whole thing was a failure. The leadership should have done more research to find out what cabdrivers would be willing to do."
Strike leaders said yesterday they believed that most of the city's drivers were behind them when they called for a strike for Monday and Tuesday about two weeks ago.
"We thought we gave the drivers enough time to work and save money so that they could afford to strike this week," said Jack Dembo, a strike leader and president of the Independent Taxicab Drivers Association. "We reached a point of economic breakdown and a lot of drivers felt they couldn't afford to strike because this is a really slow season.
"From the beginning, we had a problem of disunity," Dembo said. "All the taxicab associations were seeking the same kinds of fare increases, but we were divided about the tactics, and that really hurt us."
"We put out circulars telling drivers what was going on, and we polled individual drivers at the back stands to get their sentiments," Dembo said. "But we couldn't get everybody signed up in an organizations so that representatives could speak for every driver on the street.
"I think the drivers got disgusted with all of us because we couldn't get our stuff together," he said. "When we got media attention, everybody had a different ide about what we should do."
Strike leaders said they had hoped that the momentum created during a one-day protest June 25 would carry through in this strike. On June 25, about half the city's cabdrivers struck, standing businessmen and commuters, after the fare-setting Public Service Commission gave drivers a 10-cent-per-person-per-trip increase when drivers had asked for a 10.5 percent across-the-board increase.
Cabdrivers also sought a 25-cent-per-person gasoline surcharge with an escalator provision, and a 60-cent morning rush-hour surcharge.
"The first strike was miraculous," said Saunders, one of the strike leaders. "That strike was planned out of spontaneous anger. The ambiance of violence was in the air and I think it was the element of fear [of reprisals against those who didn't strike] that made it successful.
"The ambiance of fear was totally absent this time." CAPTION: Picture, Taxicabs lined up at the Mayflower Hotel at 8 a.m. yesterday. By noon, strike leaders conceded most of the city's cabdrivers were back on the street. By Larry Morris - The Washington Post