Hundreds of area transit workers and supporters will honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this Saturday when they hold a “Rally for Respect” at 11a in Hyattsville, MD (see Calendar for details.) The rally will call attention to the poor service, sweatshop-level wages and working conditions faced by riders and transit workers as a result of WMATA’s outsourcing of public transit services. click below to read more...
April 4 marks the 47th anniversary of the King’s death, assassinated while lending his support to the historic 1968 Memphis sanitation worker strike. The African-American strikers’ “I Am a Man!” message became a rallying cry throughout the entire civil rights movement. “Today’s transit workers are fighting for the same things Dr. King and the Memphis sanitation workers fought for,” says Jackie Jeter of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, which represents 10,000 transit workers in the DMV. “They want to be treated with dignity and respect, be paid a living wage, have confidence in the safety of their vehicles, and provide excellent service for their riders.” But as Metro Access Operator Karen Reed told Mayor Bowser in January, that’s not happening. Paid only $26,000 per year, Reed and her daughter qualify for food stamps, housing assistance, and Medicaid. She and her daughter were homeless for three months last year. Reed would like WMATA and First Transit (her private employer) to “stop cutting corners and stop treating me and my fellow workers like disposable people.” “Karen’s story is the story of thousands of transit workers across the DMV. WMATA should be ashamed that its outsourced workers labor in these modern-day sweatshops,” says Anthony Garland of ATU 1764, representing DMV transit workers. “The mayor has a moral obligation to put a stop to outsourcing public transit service to businesses whose obsession with profits condemns their workers to poverty, and intimidates them into silence. “This is not going to be a ‘one-off’ protest,” he adds. “We’re going to raise the issue again and again until these transit workers receive justice.”