Comstock Statement on Amalgamated Transit Union

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Provided by Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s Office

Congresswoman Barbara Comstock

Congresswoman Barbara Comstock

Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jeff Marschner released the following statement regarding the Amalgamated Transit Union partisan attack from earlier today:

“Today the Washington Post Editorial Board took ATU Local 689 to task saying they need to ‘get behind the safety surge’ and the union “is sending mixed messages in that regard, at best”.

“Last night, Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans went on TV demanding that heads roll over the July 29 derailment outside of the East Falls Church Metro Station saying:  ‘After everything that [Metro General Manager] Paul Wiedefeld has said about people taking their jobs responsibly and doing what they are supposed to do, that we wouldn’t have things like this happen…I would encourage the general manager to find out who was supposed to be doing [the inspections]and then fire them.’

“These responses this week, as well as that of Congresswoman Comstock, were in response to the briefing and information from NTSB which told that us that Metro officials may have known about track problems in the area of the derailment since 2009 – seven years ago!  NTSB also said in that briefing that inspections were supposed to be done two times a week but were only done once a month.  Therefore, it appears instead of approximately eight inspections a month, which is what they should do by their own standards, they only did one-eighth of what is required.  They also told us that the specialized vehicle used to identify track defects is out of service. It is not clear when it broke down.  Why did Metro ignore these standards and why does the union president ignore that issue?   Just this morning, Congresswoman Comstock spoke to Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans about last week’s derailment outside of the East Falls Church Metro Station and they agreed to request an explanation for why Metro didn’t follow their own standards of inspections two times a week and only did it once a month.

“Metro’s Department of Transit Infrastructure and Engineering Services (TIES) has 5,004 budgeted positions, according to information that Metro provided to our office and information reported on their website.  Out of the almost 80,000 orders open on the Metro System as of February this year, 64%, or over 50,000, were in TIES.  They are the department charged with inspection and maintenance of the rail system.  The 5,004 workers in that department amount to 42 workers per mile of track while American Public Transit Association’s 2015 Fact Book says that 19 workers per track mile is the industry average. Now we are told that out of those 5,004 staffers there are only 42 people in that office who actually do rail inspections. That is a new and surprising admission.  If only 42 workers are actually out looking at the tracks, why?   Congresswoman Comstock has sent a letter to Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld asking for a full accounting of all of the 5,004 positions in the Track and Structures Department and what these job assignments include.

“ATU Local 689 also has a disturbing pattern of suing Metro to put fired employees who have committed egregious safety violations back to work, threatening not only the safety of our Metro passengers but other Metro workers as well. This isn’t in the public interest or the interest of their own union members.  The latest example occurred just last month when ATU Local 689 filed a suit on behalf of a senior mechanic who had failed to inspect a tunnel fan, falsified an inspection report and even lied to investigators in the aftermath of the L’Enfant Plaza tragedy last January.  What kind of message does that send to those hardworking Metro workers who play by the rules and are committed to a safety culture?   It is disturbing that ATU Local 689 will not commit to the culture of safety and accountability that the GM, FTA and NTSB all say needs to be present at WMATA.  In the last two months alone, two train operators have been fired for red signal over runs.  The union remained silent.

“It is sad that the leadership of Metro’s union responds in such a partisan manner when Democrats and Republicans alike have called for major reforms in the safety culture as a way to keep riders and workers safe.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising given that even the Obama Administration’s own Labor Department brought a lawsuit against the dysfunctional Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 for a potential illegal union election of its leadership last December.  The lawsuit filed by U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez says, ‘(Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689) failed to conduct its election in accordance with its bylaws and the International constitution when it denied individuals…who were eligible for candidacy under the Defendant’s and the International’s bylaws and constitutions the right to be nominated and run for office…’  It appears that the Obama Labor Department does not think the union is following the proper election rules and standards either. 

“We all are on board for creating a safety culture for Metro riders.  ATU Local 689 leadership – which should often be distinguished from its many members – should get on board.”

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