General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced this week that he will be changing his revised absenteeism policy back to what it was in March - nearly verbatim - following aggressive pressure from ATU Local 689 and an embarrassing week in April where he publicly and falsely accused the Metro front-line workers of staging a sick out because they were appropriately following his policy.
The revised absenteeism policy was one of the most outrageous illustrations of the environment of retaliation and intimidation at WMATA, and is a reflection of management’s belief that bully tactics are how to best run the system. This union is proud of its membership who stood strong against the intimidation they endured and were able to force WMATA leadership to admit its abuse of power by compelling Wiedefeld to make changes that will lead to a more safe and reliable experience for both riders and workers.
“Upper management’s insistence that operators begin their trips regardless of whether they had ensured the complete safety of the bus spoke volumes about their apathy towards the safety of the riders and their employees,” Tracie Smith, a shop steward and executive board member with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said outside the Shepherd Parkway Bus Division in southwest D.C. “[Metro] has moved towards the attitude that service trumps safety.”
Pres. Jackie Jeter on Good Morning Washington (WJLA): The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, WMATA and you
Statement from ATU Local 689 on The Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s call for immediate safety changes at Metro to protect riders and workers:
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 applauds the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s call for immediate safety changes at Metro to protect riders and workers. The FTA's observations about fast moving trains through work zones --- that are supposed to be secured and protected, and are not --- are only the tip of the iceberg of the fatal flaws and ineffective safety culture at WMATA.
WMATA’s current flagging system nearly took the lives of Federal Rail Administration (FRA) track experts who were walking WMATA's tracks just last year. It is unacceptable and dangerous for WMATA’s flagging system to depend on hope and good luck to protect track workers. It is long overdue for WMATA to develop an adequate primary flagging system to provide “positive” protection to warn, slow and hold approaching trains until all employees are determined to be clear of oncoming trains.
Last month, ATU Local 689 rolled out an extensive list of proposals to save, stabilize and improve WMATA, including a commitment to institute labor management partnerships for safety. If WMATA is serious about addressing its safety failures, they will engage the workforce in creating a plan and stop putting its employees and riders in danger.
For many Metro workers, routine track work involves the art of survival, thanks to WMATA. If WMATA continues the reckless flagging practices to which it subjects its employees, there will be more close calls, serious injuries and even death at WMATA’s hands.
ATU Local 689 on Release of Paul Wiedefeld’s Plan for Metro:
Paul Wiedefeld’s proposal for WMATA is bad for riders, bad for workers and bad for the region. Instead of offering real proposals to improve the system and win riders back, Wiedefeld has, once again, pitted riders against workers in an attempt to balance the agency’s budget on the back of WMATA’s hardworking employees. His solution is to outsource services more and more of the system, which will make the system less safe, less reliable, more costly and demoralize the workforce in a race to the bottom.
Last month, we released our proposals to fix WMATA, fund it and make it fair for riders. These proposals included specifics on how to secure the dedicated funding the system desperately needed to bring back riders and improve safety. Mr. Wiedefeld has not reached out to us to discuss our plan. Instead of opening a dialogue with WMATA’s workforce on how to improve service and fix the system, the general manager has chosen to go around our negotiated contract and bargain in bad faith through the media.
ATU Local 689 is pleased with the ruling to reinstate our member Seyoum Haile who was falsely blamed for the L’Enfant Plaza smoke incident on January 15, 2015. We always knew that if the judge followed the law the ruling would uphold the arbitration decision.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan will announce tomorrow that he will waste $105 million on the “I-270 Innovative Congestion Management Project” which will minimally expand some driving lanes, open new weigh stations, and add traffic lights to on-ramps. These plans are hardly innovative and will not ease congestion.
Local 689 is calling on the governor to cancel these plans and embrace an authentically innovative plan for the local economy that expands mass transit options, gets cars off the road, and saves Metro. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board just approved cuts to the J7 and J9 bus lines that run along I-270 last month and this plan is another slap in the face to riders and tax payers. More cars on the highway is bad for the environment, the growth of this region, the future of Metro, and the pockets of taxpayers.
The sharing and intermingling of unrelated termination numbers is little more than a public relations stunt by General Manager Paul Wiedefeld to pit workers against riders and create a false narrative of unsafe employees. ATU Local 689 negotiated a substance abuse policy with WMATA in 1984, predating the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s directives and making this system the first in the industry to do so. We have never condoned substance abuse at WMATA and have demonstrated this for decades. Local 689 has not taken a positive drug test to arbitration in 18 years and has not arbitrated a cell phone/electronic device policy violation since January of 2016 (a case from a 2015 incident that we won because there was no actual electronic device policy violation). If WMATA were being completely transparent, they would also release the excessive number of drug and alcohol test they administer as a means of intimidating employees to not make reports on unsafe work conditions.
The 9,200 WMATA workers of Local 689 will continue to stand with riders as we advocate for a safe, affordable, and reliable system for all and will not allow the negative tactics of WMATA to distract us from that goal.