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Taxi cab group says thousands of drivers joined Monday morning strike

Cabdrivers strike Chicago.  Taxi drivers led by United Taxidrivers Community Council parked N. Park Drive during work stoppage Monday

Cabdrivers on strike in Chicago. Taxi drivers led by the United Taxidrivers Community Council parked on N. Park Drive during a work stoppage Monday, July 2, 2012. | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 4, 2012 6:34AM

Couldn’t hail a cab Monday morning?

That’s probably because thousands of taxi drivers went on strike from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. to highlight their frustration with new city regulations that raised the rates taxi drivers pay to lease their vehicles without allowing a corresponding fare increase to offset the expenses.

The strike, which organizers say will be replicated every Monday morning until demands are met, was planned by the United Taxidrivers Community Council, which claims to represent about 2,000 drivers and counts on the solidarity of many more.

The taxi staging area at O’Hare, usually flush with several hundred cabs, was empty at 7:30 a.m., said taxi driver spokesman Michael McConnell. The 15 taxis usually lined up outside the Sheraton were no where in site at 10:30 a.m., he added.

However, according to the mayor’s office, the city saw no disruption in taxi services and strongly disagrees with their claims.

At issue is the lease-rate system, which mandates drivers pay between $595 to $707 to rent a cab for a week — with costlier rates applying to newer, more fuel efficient cars. The new rates went into effect Sunday. The previous weekly rate was capped at $513, said McConnell.

“We want fare rates increased 22 percent,” said McConnell. “There hasn’t been a fare increase since 2005, and with cost of living, gas having gone up ... and now these lease increases are the straw that broke the camels back,” he said.

City Council Transportation Committee Chairman Anthony Beale (9th) vowed to hold a hearing this summer on the drivers’ petition for a 22 percent fare hike. But the drivers say a hearing alone will not be enough. They won’t stop striking on Monday mornings until the City Council approves a fare hike.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration contends recent reforms paved the way for cabbies to drive newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles, be yanked off the road more quickly for dangerous driving and spend no more than 12 straight hours on the road.

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