WASHINGTON - Metro said dialogue between management and officials with the transit agency’s largest union is continuing after union members voted to authorize a potential strike.
On Sunday, 94 percent of members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents about 8,000 of 12,500 Metro workers, voted in favor of giving their leadership the authority to strike. This comes as Major League Baseball All-Star Game festivities are taking place.
However, employees showed up to work on Monday as Metro service ran normally. Service is being extended an extra hour Monday night to allow baseball fans to head home from Nationals Park after the end of the Home Run Derby.
D.C. Mayor Bowser said Metro workers are forbidden from striking and could face legal consequences, including jail.
“I’m not really sure what the union’s gameplan is, but our agreement with Metro about striking is pretty ironclad,” Bowser said. “You recognize that Metro is not operated by D.C. government. That is why I am telling you the general manager and the union I’m sure are having discussions today, but a work stoppage of any kind violates the law.”
Since Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld took over in 2015, union members have held regular demonstrations over a number of issues. They said they are fed up over several things such as stalled contract negotiations and job cuts and reassignments. The union also claims there have been violations of their collective bargaining agreement, such as a three-day advanced notice policy for sick leave and disagreements over employees working a seventh consecutive day in exchange for double pay.
“This is a strong union, it’s been a strong union,” said union president Jackie Jeter. “We are not asking anybody to do anything for us other than follow the CBA. We have colored within the lines. If we had a problem, we would go to arbitration. When we would go to arbitration, WMATA would take us to court. Whether it's the seventh-day award, whether it's the absenteeism policy, we always do what we are supposed to do and they have failed to do everything their supposed to do.”
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 tweeted that they will meet with Metro officials on Tuesday.
ATU Local 689 has accepted a meeting with Paul Wiedefeld’s designees tomorrow. Our union is prepared to sit down and have a genuine conversation about the issues that got us to this point. (1/3) #wmata— ATU Local 689 (@ATULocal689) July 16, 2018
It is not our intention to disrupt the MLB All-Star game, and we would hope that #WMATA shares our desire to talk in good faith and will not to use this meeting as a stop gap to get through the big day. (2/3)— ATU Local 689 (@ATULocal689) July 16, 2018
We look forward to reporting back to our membership tomorrow afternoon what progress, if any, was made during the meeting. (3/3) #wmata— ATU Local 689 (@ATULocal689) July 16, 2018
WMATA’s Board of Directors said in a statement on Monday:
"First and foremost, it is important to keep the customers in mind—those who rely on Metro service every day, who support the regional economy and our federal government. To ensure that Metro is always there for the millions who rely on us, the region has made a commitment to increase capital investment in Metro with the understanding that a similar commitment be made by Metro to tackle tough issues, including solving growing costs. The General Manager and his team are working to make these difficult decisions while also protecting current employees. We must find solutions together by continuing to talk and listen, as Chairman Evans recently did in a meeting with union leadership. The collective bargaining process is the appropriate and legal path to finding solutions."
At this time, it is unclear if and when this strike could happen. The last Metro workers strike happened 40 years ago in 1978 and lasted for a week.