Metro's bus and subway workers continued their wildcat strike yesterday but commuters, no longer surprised by the strike, had learned to cope somewhat. They left to work earlier, came home later and avoided the horrendous rush-hour traffic jams that has ensnarled the area on Thursday.
Metro and union officials conducted quiet discussions on how to narrow their differences and the federal District Court applied a little pressure to both sides resolve the three-day-old dispute, but there was indication of a settlement.
Neither Metro nor union officials could predict late yesterday whether bus service would be available today, in part because the union has lost control of the strikers. The subway does not operate on Saturdays and Sundays.
Metro lawyers are going to court today to seek contempt citations against some of the strikers, Metro general manager Theodore C. Lutz said. Metro supervisors earlier had served back-to-work court orders on union officials and many of the 123 individuals Metro named in court papers as responsible for the strike.
Some Metro employes called in or reported for work at their bus garages or subway yards, but in only a few cases were they actually willing to take buses through picket lines and on the streets. Others proclaimed that their intentions to strike was as strong as ever. Still others said that they wanted to to go back to work, but would respect picket lines.
"No one is going back in," an operator identified as "Choo" Coltrane told a reporter in front of the Western garage at 5248 Wisconsin Ave. NW. A bearded driver, sitting under a picket sign attached to the fence of the Four Mile Run garage in Arlington, said, "You might say I'm prepared to stay out forever and ever, amen."
Another driver, at the Northern garage at 4615 14th St. NW, said, "I want to go back to work. So do a lot of other guys. But if I did that, they'd threaten me. What can you do? It's bad enough to have the public on your back . . . I hope it's settled soon."
Five drivers who had been on strike at the Arlington garage reported for their scheduled runs yesterday afternoon. "They took buses out, were intimidated and shouted at, turned around and came right back," said Nicholas J. Roll, Metro's assistant general manager for transit services.
The big issue continued to be an $8-a-week cost-of-living increase the strikers claim should have been included in their paychecks Wednesday. Metro withheld the payment, claiming that it is an item under arbitration. The Metro contract with Local 68 of the Amalgamated Transit Union expired April 30. Under federal law, unresolved issues must be submitted to binding arbitration and both sides must accept the arbitration panel's decisions.
The fact is that fewer drivers reported for work yesterday than had done so on Thursday, the first day the strike had any real effect in transit users.
Normally, 2,400 drivers work in one day. Thursday 1,253 reported and many buses actually started out, but ultimately were to their garages. Yesterday, only 906 drivers reported and Metro never had more than 28 buses on the street at one time.
Thomas S. Trimmer, Metro's director of bus operations, said that at one point yesterday morning he had 250 bus drivers inside the huge Bladensburg Road garage in Northeast Washington. "They'd come in and report and say they were avalible for work. But there was picket line and none of them really wanted to go out. They were afraid for themselves, and for their cars," Trimmer said.
"There were at least two incidents reported to Metro officials where air was let out of tires of cars belonging to working drivers.
"Picketing" and "impairing ingreee or egress" from bus garages are among the items strikers are specifically prohibited from doing under the federal court signed Thursday afternoon by District Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer.
Workers who violate that order in comtempt of court if the violations can be proven. Metro supervisors openly took pictures of picketers yesterday.
"In several cases we will be seeking contempt citations" today, Lutz said. "We believe we have specific evidence in those cases."
A hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Judge Oberdorfer's courtroom. Oberdorfer also conferred with attorneys for some of the strikers entered the case. The strikers had previously been without individual representation.
Oberdorfer told the assembled attorneys that he wanted a report this morning relating to "compliance and noncompliance" with his order.
Implicit in that statement was more pressure on both Metro and union local to "expedite" arbitration on the cost of living allowance, as Oberdorfer has ordered.
Metro yesterday posted a $40,000 bond to guarantee payment to employes of the cost-of-living increase in a subsequent proceeding. That too is a part of Oberdorfer's order.
Attorneys for the individual strikers were hired after Arlington Division driver William T. Scoggin and others organized a group of dissidents under the shade of the elevated metro rail line at RFK Stadium yesterday morning.
Scoggin and his group made up of representatives from the various garages listed five demands for their return to work. Included were the cost-of-living pay raise a guarantee that another quarterly cost of living raise will be paid in October if the arbitration is still uncompleted an extension of the terms of the old contract, and written assurances that there will be no reprisals.
Lutz has taken a hardline on discipline questions, with strong backing from the Metro board. About 180 employes have been suspended and Lutz said yesterday questions of amnesty would have to be considered under "regularly disciplinary procedurse."
The fifth demand was for individual workers to have the right to examine their own personnel files.
According to Trimmer, they already have the right. "I don't understand their request," he said. "It's been my policy that we'll show it to individuals and discuss it with them."
The confusion over the strike, and the variety of attitudes among the drivers was exemplified by the scene at the Prince George's County garage yesterday.
Shortly before 10 a.m., a shop steward arrived and told the members of teamster Local 922 - which represents only the Prince George's drivers and mechanics - that they could be arrested for walking a picket line on Metro property. The shop steward then read the court order in full.
Within moments all of the pickets had folded their signs and crossed the street from the Metro parking area.
Later in the day, a group of drivers returned from the stadium meeting with Scoggin and told the drivers, "I'm concerned that Prince George's is the only unit that is not picketing. All of the other units have their signs up and it appears to me that we are beginning to show some disunity."
There was a discussion about whether to return to picketing and it was decided that legal advice was needed before a decision could be made.
One of the drivers told a reporter, "I would really like to go back to work, but I don't think I will be able to go until these other fellows return. I don't know what would happen if I took bus off the lot."
Another said, "Icould stay out as long as year, because I'm prepared for it.
As the day wore on, the gathering in the Prince George's yard took on a picnic flavor. Casually dressed drivers stood in groups drinking cold beer and talking. One driver went home, then returned with a charcoal grill, and a cookout began.