Last night's union "town hall," seemed more like a regular union meeting as most of the speakers were union members, but there were a few fireworks.
The crowd was noticeably excited when two speakers, one of whom was former union president Mike Golash, mentioned the possibility of a strike to bring closure to an ongoing battle between Metro and the union for a new contract, which would include a pay raise.
Current union president Jackie Jeter was quick to downplay the likelihood of a strike. Metro workers haven't been on strike since 1978, and their current contract contains a no-strike clause.
Some of the concerns raised by union members were as follows:
Union workers seemed dismayed by Metro's unwillingness to listen to their concerns, even when they involved safety. One union official complained that Metro hires consultants to tell them about problems employees could tell them about for free.
Along the same lines, one bus operator said the new buses were "garbage" and hard to drive in the city. They also said it was a bad idea to allow riders to add to their SmarTrip cards on the buses. He said this puts the buses behind schedule.
There seemed to be general agreement that Metro doesn't seem interested in protecting bus operators. Jeter, citing several recent assaults of bus operators, said there are only 10 Metro police cops for 2,100 bus operators, a situation she called "unsafe."
She said Metro cops should increase their presence on the buses both for the safety of the operators and the riding public.
There was a lot of head nodding when one union official said Metro has set "unrealistic" bus schedules that buses have a hard time meeting even without a bathroom break.
Many union members complained that taking a bathroom break along the routes was also made more difficult because Metro has been lax in recruiting local establishments for them to take bathroom breaks.
Bus drivers seemed to share the concern brought up by one speaker that bus stops were too close together.
One union official said he'd "rather make less money and have a smooth day than more money and all these headaches."
When asked about rude bus operators at Anacostia, Jeter said there was "no excuse for rudeness."
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