By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
Metro workers are fed up, and on July 15 many frontline workers from its largest union voted to allow its leadership to call for a strike– a form of protesting currently illegal to its members.
“Thousands of members turned out for the strike authorization vote yesterday meeting in Forestville, Maryland where members voted “yes” in favor of planning a strike by 94%,” a union release said Monday.
Yet since striking is still illegal for union members, the overwhelming vote for a strike doesn’t mean it will actually happen.
The District’s last transit strike was forty years ago.
“The last time Local 689 held a strike authorization vote was in 1978 that resulted in a [weeklong] wildcat strike,” the union release said.
President Jackie Jeter of Amalgamated Transit Unit (ATU) Local 689, is not spilling any information on if and when a strike will take place.
“The union has no plans to make its timeline of events public, but will share developments at the appropriate time,” the release said.
According to WAMU, ATU will probably meet this week to discuss next steps.
There’s inherent urgency because if workers do, indeed, strike, the transportation system that spans Maryland and D.C. will no longer be available for service.
“If we don’t move, this region doesn’t move,” union vice president Carroll Thomas said after Sunday’s vote and meetings.
Political leaders, such as Virginia House Republican Speaker Kirk Cox, are asking that the state challenges the strike to “protect the thousands of Virginians who rely on Metro every day, and ensure the Northern Virginia economy does not come to a standstill because of this irresponsible move.”
Virginia, along with Maryland and the District signed on to give Metro $500 million in dedicating funding earlier this year.
“The ATU’s action threatens not only to cripple the region, but also to do significant damage to the political progress we’ve made over the last year,” Virginia House leadership said in the release. “We will not write a blank check to a dysfunctional organization.”
Despite the political concerns and obvious effect on the public, Metro workers say they are tired of being mistreated.
“This is not against the public,” Jeter said. “We’re all on the same side and I wish the public would come out and tell management to treat workers right as [Metro] should treat the public right,” the union president said.
Jeter and ATU Second Vice President Raymond Jackson, said workers are concerned after changes were made to the sick leave policy, random background checks were instituted and most recently the hiring of non-union contractors to do custodial work.
“[Workers] have reached that point where enough is enough,” Jackson said. Further Jackson emphasized that while the strike is a contract violation, General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has also violated the contract many times.
“[Thousands] of members don’t show up on a Sunday if there’s not a problem,” Jackson said.
Wiedefeld said he is trying to rectify the issues and avoid striking. He threatened termination for those who strike.
“We are prepared to pursue all remedies to protect service for our customers, including seeking relief from the courts and progressive discipline up to, and including, termination,” Wiedefeld wrote to employees on July 13. “To be clear, this is the last thing I want to do, and I am hopeful that no further action is necessary.”
Word buzzing in the city is that the union may try to do something major on Tuesday- the day set for the MLB All-Star Game, yet no union member has confirmed or denied the rumor.