Metro says workers’ ‘labor action’ leads to delays

WASHINGTON — Metro blamed some delays Wednesday on members of its largest union choosing to report to work late.

In a statement, Metro called it an “unauthorized labor action affecting bus and rail service.”

“Managers or supervisors are covering some assignments where possible to support service for customers; however, we are seeing sporadic delays on Metrobus,” Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said in an email. “Service on Metrorail has been largely unaffected at this time.”

It was not immediately clear what specific issue Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 workers were protesting, but the union had expressed concerns over the last two weeks about Metro reducing the number of locations where custodians could choose to be assigned.

The union said moving the custodians to customer-facing areas such as rail stations would allow Metro to contract out that job at other Metro facilities.

The union told members at meetings earlier this week and in messages sent Tuesday that “This month will be hot. Beginning tomorrow it will be hotter than July. We are Local 689. We are #UnionStrong.”

Early Wednesday afternoon, the union told members that the morning shift “did their job, now it’s the PM shift’s turn to bring it home! We are #UnionStrong.”

About 25 percent of bus operators, 16 percent of train operators, 25 percent of station managers, and 30 percent of railcar mechanics reported to work late Wednesday morning, Ly said.

Metro said it was taking steps to minimize delays, and did not expect significant problems for post-fireworks crowds, making the rail system still likely the best option for crowds heading to and from the National Mall.

“Metro service is experiencing delays due to bus and train operators reporting late to work as part of a collective labor action by their Union,” Metro said in a statement. “Management is doing everything possible to continue to minimize delays to customers, as well as to ensure compliance with WMATA’s collective bargaining agreement, including seeking legal remedies through the courts.”

Metro and the union expect a decision soon from arbitrators on a new overall contract, and have been separately tied up in legal disputes over other issues tied to working conditions, the individual arbitration process and management power to set policies.

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