Letter: Wiedefeld is ‘bullying’ Metro union

WASHINGTON — The president of Metro’s largest union blasted Metro’s general manager Tuesday in a letter accusing him of “bullying, abusive tactics” against Metro workers. 

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 President Jackie Jeter sent the long, strongly worded letter, obtained by WTOP, in response to an internal memo Monday from General Manager Paul Wiedefeld that called potential steps by union workers to decline working overtime “potentially unlawful.”

Jeter called some of Wiedefeld’s interactions with employees “undignified.”

“Let’s be crystal clear: This is not about safety or overtime. This is about the respect of the rights. Your actions are the bullying, abusive tactics that come with a lack of respect for the employees of this company that collectively bargain,” the letter said, referring to a lawsuit Metro filed Friday over fatigue rules.

“It is hypocritical to use the word safety in one breath against the award but issue a veiled threat of retaliation if we don’t work the overtime that you demand in the other breath!” the letter continued.

“The attempt to intimidate this workforce through the threat of legal action is preposterous. It is not illegal for any employee to decide to utilize their right to voluntarily work overtime when they choose!” Jeter wrote.

“The threat of using outside contractors to make us disregard our rights, or more directly, to allow your disrespect for our rights to continue is an option that you should not make lightly.”

“Both sides have options, and we too are leaving all options on the table!” the letter said.

The public back and forth between the union and Metro management has been escalating as contract talks have become more contentious.

The collective bargaining agreement expired last year, and Jeter charged in the letter that Metro management has levied an “assault” against the union’s current collective bargaining agreement.

Jeter said in the letter that Wiedefeld is trying to dismantle 40 years of bargaining and suggested that if Metro challenges more arbitration decisions in court, it could eventually lead to some kind of work stoppage. Metro has binding arbitration in exchange for a ban on strikes.

The union has also challenged some arbitration decisions in court, or has gone to court to enforce arbitration decisions Metro had not honored.

While Metro has said there have been a series of meetings with the union regarding safety and other issues — and Jeter has described talks on a new collective bargaining agreement as ongoing — Jeter said in the letter that Metro has largely refused to negotiate over a series of policies.

The union, she said, had wanted to negotiate policies such as the fatigue risk management policy that Metro decided to file a lawsuit over on Friday.

“Instead you developed ways to delegitimize our CBA, and you neglect to address the real problem that Management, not the union, can control overtime and fatigue through manpower,” Jeter wrote.

“In addition, you throw safety and caution to the wind when you need the hours for SafeTrack repairs or special occasions, and you do not enforce fatigue when it comes to your contractors.”

Metro has consistently scheduled workers on 12-hour shifts six days per week in round-the-clock work zones, which has raised concerns among Federal Transit Administration oversight officials.

“Please don’t misunderstand or underestimate the astute members of Local 689. We have not threatened this company in any way. Our decision to refrain from working voluntary overtime is lawful,” Jeter wrote.

“As an employee it is my right to decide when I will or will not give my time to that endeavor. Signing the overtime list is the prerogative of the employee and that is not a threat!” she continued.

Metro workers have continued to do their jobs and keep the Washington region moving, Jeter said, and they plan to continue to do so. Union agreements generally allow the most senior workers to pick shifts first, including overtime.

“The threat being perpetrated on the Authority is yours, not Local 689’s. The cover has been pulled away and you can no longer pretend that you are the saving grace of the Authority and that we are the barbarians at the gate,” the letter said.

The union planned to forward the letter sent to Wiedefeld to all union members.

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