Metro’s largest union denounced a Maryland congressman’s proposed legislation to overhaul the agency’s governance and labor practices Monday, saying it is “among the most outrageous proposals ever put forth by a Democratic member of Congress in recent memory.”
Amalgamated Transit Union International, issued a scathing letter Monday to Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), who in February introduced the Improvement Act of 2017. The bill would award Metro $750 million over 10 years in exchange for broad reforms to the agency’s labor and governance, and includes a provision that would give Metro management greater power to reassign workers or rely on outside contractors.
In the letter, ATU International President Lawrence J. Hanley says, “The bill holds hostage hundreds of millions of sorely-needed dollars from WMATA until our collective bargaining agreement is changed to allow the transit authority to ‘implement all necessary operational changes required’ and lower costs by outsourcing our work.”
In statement Monday, Delaney defended his bill as striking a balance between labor protections and addressing the system’s long-term needs.
“The bill maintains all federal labor protections and requires that any collective bargaining agreement allows WMATA to provide a high level of service, reliability, and safety,” Delaney said. “If we don’t increase funding and reform Metro’s governance, we run the risk of the system collapsing, which is bad for workers, riders and the entire region.”
Delaney has expressed his support for union protections in the past, but said Metro’s management should also have the flexibility to operate the system. The Delaney bill would preserve wage safeguards outlined in the federal Davis-Bacon Act, and requires smaller concessions than a bill expected to be introduced in coming weeks by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.).
But the union contends that the Delaney bill targets wages and benefits for Metro employees. In the letter, Hanley goes on to call the legislation “invasive, heartless, and cruel.”
“Congress has no business injecting itself into collective bargaining matters between outside parties,” Hanley writes.
Delaney’s bill does not take a position on whether to keep binding arbitration in labor negotiations. Comstock has said she would put a stop to the practice to cut labor costs.
As the region’s only Republican in the GOP-controlled Congress, Comstock’s bill is expected to have an easier path.
ATU Local 689 has its own proposal to fix the system. It includes a mix of flat fares, labor partnerships and dedicated taxes to help increase sagging ridership and bolster the agency’s revenue.
Hanley’s letter includes a copy of the union proposal, “Fund It, Fix It, Make it Fair,” and invites Delaney to review it.
The full text of the letter can be seen below: