WASHINGTON D.C. - In shocking, yet all too real testimony, a Washington, DC, Metro Access operator will give new mayor Muriel Bowser and local congregations a glimpse of the grim impact that outsourcing of public services has had on residents of the DC metropolitan area.
On Thursday evening, January 8, operator Karen Reed will be among the speakers at a Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) forum for Mayor Bowser, who in her first week in office has shown a willingness to listen to working people first-hand. Reed will explain the safety concerns for riders and the financial struggle she endures as an employee of a private, for-profit company contracted by WMATA to provide transportation for the area’s most vulnerable citizens.
Reed will emphasize the importance of her job in transporting people with disabilities and seniors where they need to go, and will describe the accompanying dangers she and her co-workers face every day.
She’s dedicated to her work, but “It would be a smoother ride for everybody,” she asserts, “if WMATA and First Transit (her private employer) would stop cutting corners and stop treating me and my fellow workers like disposable people.”
“Employee turnover is through the roof,” she warns, “and customer service suffers.”
The driver reveals that she is paid only $26,000 per year (less than 30% of area median income), which qualifies her and her daughter for food stamps, housing assistance, and Medicaid.
Still she has trouble finding a place to live that she can afford. She and her daughter were homeless for three months last year. Nevertheless, Reed was never late, nor did she miss a day of work.
Reed and her daughter need public assistance just to survive but would rather just earn a living wage for the work she does.
“You are going to pay me either way. In my public benefits check – or my paycheck,” she explains. “I enjoy working for a living. Stop insulting me. Pay me in just one check – MY PAY CHECK!”