Metro bus drivers worried about jobs, as D.C. seeks to privatize some routes

Metro’s biggest union — Local 689 — is trying to rally support from pro-union groups and local community organizations to try to stop the District from privatizing some of the bus routes in the city that are now run by the transit agency.

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D.C. Circulator bus (Robert Thomson/Washington Post)

On Wednesday night, about 100 local community and union members, along with labor organizers, gathered at a church in Southeast to protest the city’s proposal to hire an outside contractor to run its streetcars, Circulator buses and Metro bus routes.

The plan comes from the District’s Department of Transportation as a way to save money and become more efficient. But union leaders say they worry the private company could cut routes for riders and will offer lower wages and benefits to its drivers.

“We want to be able to preserve our jobs and be able to take care of our families comfortably,” said Keith Bullock, a bus operator out of Metro’s Southern Avenue division. “We pride ourselves in the relationships we build with customers and getting them to work and other places on time.”

The District’s transportation department is now seeking a private company for the services. The changes would affect about two dozen Metro bus routes that now run in the city. The union said it has calculated that about 200 Metro bus drivers could potentially lose their jobs if the deal happens.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said Thursday, “We don’t have a position on it because it is the District’s decision to make. If they want to do something different with the non-regional routes that they pay for it is their decision to make.”

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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Dana Hedgpeth | July 18, 2013