More than 130 MetroAccess workers are striking to demand better pay and working conditions.
Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 picketed outside the Transdev facility in Hyattsville, Maryland, on Monday. Transdev is one of four contractors WMATA hired to manage MetroAccess, which is a shared-ride service for people with disabilities who can't ride the bus or rail systems.
"They're treatin' us like we are just robots. We are human. We're tired. Then, when we go to the table, they only want to offer us … 10 cents. But here you are, a billion dollar company, and that's all you want to offer us? We shouldn't be treated like that," MetroAccess driver Laco King said.
WMATA said its other contractors prevented service disruptions, however, the Arc of Prince George's County, which serves those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said some of its clients who use MetroAccess arrived late and one person didn't arrive at all on Monday.
We're making it easier for you to find stories that matter with our new newsletter — The 4Front. Sign up here and get news that is important for you to your inbox.
"[There are usually] eight to ten vans ready to drop individuals off. When I got here this morning, it was two," Arc of Prince George's County Program Administrator Ashley Ware said.
Many families and caretakers depend on MetroAccess to take their loved ones to appointments, adult day care or other facilities every day.
"If they don't have MetroAccess to get them to and from their day program, that puts them in a sticky situation where as though, you know, they can't go to work," Ware said.
Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information
Union workers said the Hubbard Road Garage has been more than 100 employees short for more than a year and a half and they have been forced to work schedules of at least 48 hours per week.
The union is currently negotiating a new contract.
"The negotiations have actually been going backwards instead of forwards," ATU Local 689 President Raymond Jackson said Monday.
On Tuesday, union members met with Transdev to discuss negotiations, but did not come to an agreement.
"We hoped to share good news with the riding public today about this morning’s negotiations. Unfortunately, Transdev came to the table for fifteen minutes and made no changes to its last proposal. Its proposed wage increases are still beneath what they already offer in other jurisdictions despite the sky-high cost of living in this region," ATU Local 689 said in a statement.
Drivers say they act as caretakers when the disabled riders are with them.
"They know what we do. They know every day what we do," one employee said.
"Despite Transdev already paying $20/hour as starting wages in Baltimore, they refuse to do the same for our members serving passengers around the nation's capital. Transdev is even posting job announcements online offering wages for some Hubbard Road positions higher than what they are offering our members at the bargaining table," the union's statement on Monday said.
A spokesperson for Transdev said in a statement on Monday the company was not aware that the union was planning to protest and it is hoping for a quick resolution.
"Transdev is disappointed that the ATU 689 has chosen to strike and impact so many MetroAccess riders in the area this morning. Transdev had no prior knowledge about the timing of this action, and continues to bargain in good faith with the ATU," the statement read. "The next meetings are already scheduled for the 2nd and the 9th of August. Together with Metro Access, Transdev will try to provide as much service as possible with available alternate workforce, but the service will be limited. We continue to hope that we will be able to come to resolution quickly."