Local 689 and WMATA have been in negotiations for more than twelve months in an effort to reach agreement on the terms of a collective bargaining agreement for the period commencing July 1, 2016. Unfortunately, our efforts have not been successful and it is now apparent that the parties will not be able to reach a voluntary agreement on a new contract.
In accordance with Section 106 of the existing agreement, the Union hereby invokes the arbitration procedure set forth therein to resolve the issues in dispute between us. The Union designates as its member on the Board of Arbitration, Mr. Thomas R. Roth, (1420 King Street, Suite 500, Alexandria VA. 22314; firstname.lastname@example.org), reserving the right to substitute for Mr. Roth should he be unable or unwilling to serve or continue to serve.
In my view, negotiations this round have failed for several reasons. To begin with, your bargaining agenda – made very public in violation of our written procedural ground rule agreement – is extraordinarily naive and unrealistic. By management’s account, it asks the Union to give back $421 million, that’s $48,000 per employee! Yet even in the face of ridiculous proposals, I have repeatedly and explicitly told your negotiating team that we should continue to meet in an effort to reach a compromise during the pendency of arbitration, since the process takes months to complete. Unfortunately, time and time again, I am told by your “negotiators” that they have no authority to alter WMATA’s position. So what’s the point? You have not had the decency to come to a single negotiating session to defend or otherwise explain your proposals, or to offer constructive alternatives. Again, I renew my offer to continue bargaining, but only if you are willing to personally engage the Union and give the collective bargaining process the respect it deserves. (My team is available on Oct 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13 at any time.)
With regard to your public comments regarding the “401(k)-style” pension plan, we can agree that your desire to shift 100% of market risk from the employer to employees is completely unacceptable. This is especially true under circumstances where your proposed plan does not save WMATA or the taxpayer one dime. In fact, it will cost more than maintaining the present defined benefit plan because of increased administrative expenses. The 401(k)-style plan is virtually unheard of in the transit industry. Of the largest 50 transit systems only four defined contribution plans exist. Local 689 has negotiated its defined benefit pension plan for 72 years; asking me to eliminate the plan for new hires as a condition of a voluntary agreement has doomed any chance of settlement, and is not in the spirit of compromise you claim to have.
To reiterate, I wish there was an alternative to deferring collective bargaining decisions to a Board of Arbitration. It is a risky business for both parties. But it is a fair and balanced process. The Board is guided by standards which are considered in ruling on the issues. These include WMATA’s financial position and the compensation of employees performing similar work in the local area. But these are not the only standards. The cost-of-living and the compensation of workers on comparable transit systems must also be taken into account. In the end our respective positions will need to be justified based on all relevant facts and factors. The notion that the process favors the Union is ridiculous. If you fear that WMATA cannot prevail before a neutral judge under the existing statutory framework, perhaps you should reexamine the merit of your position.
ATU Local 689