Safety of workers and riders is the highest priority for ATU Local 689, and we believe that the jurisdictions should be working to create this safety commission with fierce urgency. However, the creation of this commission cannot and should not be an opportunity for the legislators in DC, Maryland or Virginia to make political plays by pushing through amendments and language that attack workers rights and have nothing to do with safety. With WMATA in a budget and safety crisis, actions attacking workers for the sake of politics is completely unacceptable.
At the same time, the District of Columbia has already passed their version of the Metro Safety Commission Interstate Compact Establishment Act (B21-0828) that includes a provision to require WMATA to suspend or disqualify an employee who performs in a way the Commission, alone, determines is unfit. That provision provides the Commission with sweeping power without defining what criteria they will use. It also oversteps the language of the WMATA Compact, the language of the negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement, and takes away an employee’s right to due process. The Maryland Environment and Transportation House Committee held a hearing on their version, HB 0119, yesterday with the same language in it. The requirement for suspension and disqualification does not respect due process and must be dramatically amended to defer to the language of the WMATA Compact and our collective bargaining agreement.
Additionally, all three jurisdictions have versions of the bill that refer to safety training for employees, but does not specify what, if any, role that our union will play. It also fails to specify the type of training that will be required, or how necessary training will be determined. This provision must be amended to include the union in the creation and implementation of the training.
ATU Local 689 is made up of the front line workers who will apply all safety measures taken and we must be a part of the process of how they are implemented. We are calling on all three jurisdictions to fix their bills, in an identical fashion, and with all deliberate speed. Our union stands ready to assist in any way that we can to make that happen.