Union defends decision to fight Metro worker’s firing

WASHINGTON — The largest union representing Metro employees is explaining its controversial decision to fight the termination of a mechanic who was caught lying about inspecting ventilation fans that were used during the fatal smoke incident near L’Enfant Plaza.

In a statement released Friday, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 said “the issue has been investigated, litigated and concluded by an independent third party arbitrator who has ruled that he must return to work.”

“The issue is concluded and Metro must obey the law,” the statement reads.

The union filed a federal lawsuit this week in an effort to force Metro to reinstate Seyoum Haile, who was fired a month after the January 2015 smoke incident.

Metro terminated Haile for failing to properly inspect tunnel ventilation fans that were used during the smoke incident and falsifying records to make it look like he had done the job. But this past April, an arbitration board ruled in Haile’s favor, saying he should be suspended for 180 days instead of being fired.

“No single employee should have to bear the brunt of a systemwide failure,” reads the union’s statement. “Metro is now ignoring a process that they agreed to honor in our collective bargaining agreement.”

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has vowed to fight the arbitrators’ ruling.

“We strongly disagree with the arbitration award given the employee’s egregious acts,” he said.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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