Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Plenty of Room for Other Names"

On Jan. 31, at Metro center, Metro unveiled its new memorial pylon dedicated to the 26 employees who've died on the job. It seemed like a respectful and long-needed gesture to the fallen, but as often the case with Metro, carelessness has at least one Metro employee and the widow of another upset at the transit authority.

Here's the veteran employee's take via email:
I stopped by the Metro Memorial today to see the names of friends and ended up rolling my eyes.

There are three names on the newly unveiled WMATA memorial that have something in common to those who knew them:
  • They worked for the same department: Automatic Train Control (ATC)
  • They had the same pay grade and level of expertise: AA Techs
  • They were all killed on the Red Line, or to WMATA workers, the A line.
  • They were fixing faulty track circuits
  • With regards to ATC duties, they had the same job.
Yet, when one reads their names on the memorial, two are listed as mechanics (they were killed in the same incident in 2010), and the other as technician.

How can this be?

It is very probable the titles that were etched on the memorial were copied from newspaper articles.

The Washington Post has Jong Lee identified as a technician and other media identified Jeffrey Garrard and Sung Oh as mechanics.

Neither Metro nor the union could get this one right.

It is in these small gaps in attention to detail that safety and worker motivation reside.

It is a reflection of the callous and incompetent leadership--from both camps--that makes up the work environment in which all three died.

The pylon is just another place for drunks to pee on, with plenty of room for other names.
Unsuck reached out to Grace Garrard, the widow of Jeffrey Garrard, to get her thoughts.

She said she was surprised at the distinction in job titles because, she felt, her late husband would have wanted to be memorialized as a technician, not a mechanic.

"I never had any input," she said.

Garrard said that "mechanic" is a generic title, like saying "troops," and lacks any distinction of experience or skill. She said the memorial should have reflected the job titles the fallen would have preferred "because it gives them the respect they're due."

Unsuck has confirmed with a former Metro technician that the distinction, which perhaps doesn't seem important to those who don't work at Metro, is in fact a point of pride among Metro workers. Technicians, they said, have more specialized training, and the title is generally held in higher regard than mechanic, a blanket title.

After the ceremony, the difference in job titles among the three killed workers was enough to prompt Garrard to call Metro to find out why there was a lack of consistency.

"I called and asked the memorial coordinator at Metro if the committee involved in creating the memorial had family members on it, and they didn't know," she said, adding that at the very least, Metro could have reached out to family members to seek input.

She said she would have told Metro the memorial is "not very well lit and that the memorial is not just for me, but for the other employees to see that Metro cares. It should also be a reminder to Metro customers that there are people out there working in dangerous positions so that they get to work."

She added that it's reflective of Metro "not to involve key players into the decision making process."
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