Sparring between Metro and its workforce continued this week with the agency telling its largest labor union it would not be allowed to hold informational meetings on Metro property.
Amalgamated Transit Union 689 had planned to hold break-time informational meetings at the Four Mile bus garage in Arlington on Tuesday and Thursday. But Monday, according to an email provided by the union, Metro director of labor relations Gayle L. Gray warned union President Jackie L. Jeter that “these planned union meetings will not be permitted on [Metro] property. ”
Gray cited two previous instances when the union had been warned of Metro’s policy.
“I ask that you and your fellow Union Officers respect the Authority’s position and this notice and cancel these announced meetings,” Gray said in the email.
Tensions between Metro and the union have continued to escalate in the months since contract talks stalled, sending the matter to binding arbitration. The two sides clashed often last year over issues including privatization of track work, assaults on bus operators, firings in the track inspection department and the labor contract, which expired in July 2016.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the agency’s position is “standard Metro policy.” He said that while the agency permits some informal meetings on Metro property, large scale events are not allowed because of the risk they could disrupt operations.
“They have a union hall where they can conduct union business meetings and that’s the purpose,” he said.
Meanwhile, the union said it intends to protest the agency’s decision. It contends the meetings are lawfully protected and have been conducted routinely in the past.
“Metro’s attempt to intimidate and stop union membership from meeting is a direct reflection of the culture of intimidation that has led to so many of the employee-management issues that have plagued this system and led to numerous safety and personnel concerns,” the union said in a statement. “Metro’s failure to respect the law will lead to ATU Local 689 filing an unfair labor practice with the [U.S.] Department of Labor.”
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