Retreating from a transit pact

Monday, December 14, 2009

The recent ruling by a D.C. Superior Court judge upholding the firings of 388 D.C. public school employees set a dangerous precedent for Metro workers and, ultimately, the riders they serve. This blow to the Washington Teachers Union allowed Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to stick to her script of blaming teacher salaries for a good portion of the school system's budget woes.

Now, alarmingly, we're hearing the same sort of rhetoric from Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr., who announced last month that Metro would appeal the arbitration award for the collective bargaining agreement between the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689. While refusing to honor the binding arbitration award, Mr. Catoe has been building a case for balancing Metro's budget on the backs of its workers. As recently as Dec. 3, he proposed cutting into the operating budgets of its departments to account for a $175 million budget shortfall for fiscal 2011.

As this process unfolds, readers should be mindful that both the WMATA compact that created Metro and the collective bargaining agreement between WMATA and Local 689 require disputes to be submitted to "final and binding arbitration" and that WMATA management signed documents agreeing to this process. The authority's snub shows brazen disregard for the people on the front lines of the region's public transit system, as well as for the process to which authority officials agreed.

Jackie L. Jeter, Washington

The writer is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689.

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