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Stupid Question: Are Metro Workers Gonna Strike or What?

Stupid Answer

For now, it’s looking less likely.

Background

Two weeks ago, Metro’s largest union—Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689— authorized a strike. Since then, ATU Local 689 officials and Metro management have regularly met to resolve issues relating to recent management decisions and ongoing disputes connected with their pending arbitration over a new contract. These issues include:

  • Metro reassigning union custodians to work in rail stations and other public-facing facilities, instead of being allowed to work in internal offices or rail yards. The union is concerned it could lead to additional private contracting.
  • The disciplining of union workers who reported late for work as part of purportedly organized “late outs” in July.

Airing of Grievances

It’s months away from “Festivus,” but other ATU Local 689 grievances were outlined in their letter to elected officials. Here they are in part, and in their words:

  • Stop the willful violations of the ATU Local 689/WMATA collective bargaining agreement.
  • Cease the strangulation of the grievance process and the jamming of the arbitration schedule.
  • Discuss with ATU Local 689 the contracting out of Silver Line service to Kawasaki.
  • Cease the attempts to privatize the work at the new Cinder Bed Road bus garage.
  • Eliminate the random background screenings policy that began on July 1, 2018.
  • Cease eliminating jobs through the vacancy process.
  • Stop unnecessary terminations.
  • Meet and confer with the union about the WMATA absenteeism policy.

Turning Point

Channeling Michael Corleone, Metro attempted to settle “all family business” on July 30. First, Metro agreed to allow custodians to continue working in rail yards and bus garages rather than reassigning them to rail stations. The same day, Metro reached an agreement with a smaller union— OPEIU Local 2, which represents about 1,000 administrative and professional employees— on a new five-year contract that allows for modest wage increases in exchange for more contributions to health care.

So What?

The grievances above remain topics for ongoing negotiations between Local 689 and management, but the previous tension that existed around the MLB All-Star Week has eased a little. Stay tuned for the binding arbitration decision later this summer or fall.

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