A coalition of three of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)’s unions are coming together for a “Safety Solidarity Surge” beginning next week, where union leaders will fill in the gaps of proper instruction on following all of the mandated safety initiatives required by WMATA. Metro unions ATU Local 689, OPEIU Local 2, and Teamsters Local 922, the three unions representing operations, clerical and maintenance crafts as well as the bus and rail control centers for WMATA, say they have grown frustrated with safety failures from the Authority. “Our organizations and our members have pleaded with WMATA for too long to get serious about implementing an effective safety culture,” said Jackie L. Jeter, president of ATU Local 689. “Our unions are not going to tolerate any death or injury that could have been prevented because the ball was dropped on training and implementation. We know that Metro continues to be the safest form of transportation in this region, but we have a long way to go to be the safe transit system we are supposed to be. If WMATA leaders won’t make the first move then we will.” Read more below...
photo: Metro workers speak out at WMATA hearing on Thursday; photo by Carlos Jimenez
The Safety Solidarity Surge follows years of advocacy by the union to WMATA and elected officials. Last year, Jeter spoke before a congressional hearing on the safety lapses at Metro following 2015’s L’Enfant Plaza smoke incident that ended in one tragedy and several injuries. Her remarks at the hearing were nearly verbatim to her remarks at another congressional hearing in 2009 following the fatal Red Line accident that killed nine, including the train’s operator, and injured 80. In addition, ATU Local 689 hosted a public hearing on Metro safety in 2015 with acting WMATA General Manager Jack Requa, the “Rally for Respect and Dedicated Funding” earlier this year where WMATA Board Chair Jack Evans attended and gave remarks, and this morning where five track workers spoke before the WMATA Board on safety lapses in the rail system’s track work.
“We have had enough presentations and conversations about WMATA’s safety culture,” says Jeter. “The days of Metro managers encouraging and intimidating workers to cut corners to get buses and trains into revenue service are over. We have suggested mass training of the entire workforce for a years, but because WMATA has not taken the initiative to do it, we are doing it now because seven years of is too long.”
On Monday, shop stewards and elected officials representing the union coalition will gather at ATU Local 689’s union hall in Forestville where they will go through refresher training on all of the SOPs that Metro requires of its workforce in their respective crafts. Then those officers will be going throughout the system to instruct the workforce on making sure they follow every procedure without exception.