WASHINGTON — A national transit union leader called attacks on Metro workers’ pay and safety missteps by Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., “racist,” while Comstock’s office replied that the union’s “failed” leadership is missing the point.
“She is completely ignorant of the facts, and we want to call her out on that,” Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley, speaking of Comstock, told reporters Wednesday.
“I believe that there is a clear overtone to her attack on WMATA workers, and I frankly believe it’s racist.”
Comstock, who represents Virginia’s 10th District, has asked why some Metro bus drivers can make more than $100,000 in a year, or why rail controllers were able to make more than $200,000. At a congressional hearing last month, she also held up this WTOP report to illustrate concerns about whether the union local is as focused on building a long-promised safety culture at Metro as it claims to be.
“The failed ATU leadership is lashing out at Metro management and many of us working on long-term reforms,” said Comstock’s deputy chief of staff, Jeff Marschner, in an email.
“The local ATU not only fails the public and riders of Metro but their very own employees who deserve a safe system to work on …. These and other desperate and illegitimate actions and comments by failed ATU bosses do nothing to promote the needed top-to-bottom reforms so that we can restore Metro to a safe and service-oriented transit system that the riders and our taxpayers deserve,” he continued.
Hanley called claims that safety issues are tied to pay, or that Metro workers make too much money, “outrageous” and part of efforts “to scapegoat the workers.”
Hanley said Metro was “built 40 years ago and left to die,” and now needs new investments.
“This is the one thing that I agree with Donald Trump on: Our infrastructure has been [allowed to] go to hell. That’s no secret. Highways are in collapse; subway systems are in collapse; bus systems are in collapse,” he said.
The union supported Comstock’s opponent, Democrat LuAnn Bennett, in November’s election.
Comstock, of Northern Virginia, is the only Republican on Capitol Hill who represents an area served by the Metro system.