A new association representing taxicab drivers has called for a 12-hour strike today to protest what it calls the "unspeakable ordeals" facing cabdrivers in the District.

It is not clear how widespread the protest will be, but one cab company owner estimated that the strike could idle 200 to 500 drivers who usually work area hotels, cab stands and National Airport.

The group, called the Concerned D.C. Cabdrivers Association, began circulating leaflets over the weekend urging drivers to stop working between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. today. It called for a protest rally this morning at 16th and Kennedy streets NW.

The association lists several demands, including the removal of some D.C. Taxicab Commission members, the abolition of what it calls "unconstitutional infractions," a rollback of recently increased District traffic fines and a fare increase.

It also is asking for a voice in setting policy that affects cabdrivers, as well as better police protection and life insurance provided by the city.

The job action is not being supported by the major cab companies in the District, which represent most of the 8,000 licensed drivers, said Albert Smith, president of Dial Taxicab and Barwood Cab.

But drivers, who are independently employed even if they are associated with a company, still might take part in the protest. That has happened in past protests, including one in July that drew several hundred drivers who objected to the increase in fines.

Smith said that past protests had only a limited effect on service, and predicted that would be the case today.

In addition to the larger traffic fines and increased repair costs, drivers -- who have long complained about low fares and the city's zone system -- are being pinched by higher gasoline prices, Smith said.