Shuttle drivers who serve the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their supporters will rally beginning at 7a this morning (see Calendar, right) as a months-long labor dispute boils to the surface. At the heart of the story is a private contractor, W&T Travel Services, which holds transportation contracts with the NIH, FDA, and other federal and state agencies. Its nearly forty employees who serve as NIH shuttle drivers are represented by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1764 and have been denied a contract or wage increase by W&T owner Darnell Lee since 2012. When the workers began off-duty leafleting of their passengers to raise awareness of the issue earlier this year, Lee suspended without pay or fired all union shop stewards and bargaining committee members, along with every employee who testified before the National Labor Relations Board. "The NIH is letting this contractor make runaway profits off of taxpayers while he threatens, interrogates, and abuses the workers who transport NIH employees," ATU Local 1764 Trustee Sesil Rubain said. "It's unconscionable." Lee was recently featured on CNBC's Blue Collar Millionaires, bragging about his 8,000 square foot house with a gym and theater, a custom-made Super Bowl ring, and a collection of 10,000 designer suits and shirts. The union recently launched a petition, and is asking NIH employees and other federal workers to call NIH Director Francis Collins to support the riders.
DC LABORFest 2021