Metro union leadership and safety experts described unsafe conditions for Metro workers and riders and a troubling management style of using workers as scapegoats for safety problems.
Leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, the largest union representing Metro workers, hosted a panel discussion with safety and transit experts Wednesday afternoon.
The July derailment at the East Falls Church station and the fatal L'Enfant Plaza smoke incident show the transit agency's dysfunction at the top, union President Jackie Jeter said.
"WMATA's scorched-earth firings of low-level employees is serving mostly to silence all the employees from speaking out about what is really going on with the safety at WMATA," she said.
Last month, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld fired four track inspectors and two supervisors for falsifying maintenance records after an investigation into a derailment at the East Falls Church station. He also said almost half of the system's inspectors were facing some form of discipline.
The union questioned the allegation that the workers had falsified reports, saying a lack of training may have been to blame.
Track inspector Trap Thomas, who worked for Metro for almost 20 years, said he found mechanical defects before the East Falls Church derailment and was punished for putting in speed restrictions.
"There is a culture of retaliation," he said. "They do it in such a way that it can't be proven exactly as retaliation."
"It's important to remember that thousands of Metro employees do a great job and routinely put safety first," said Wiedefeld, who has sometimes clashed with the union during his first year on the job. "However, a true culture of safety requires that we hold ourselves and each other accountable. We cannot condone falsification of documents, and I stand by the actions we have taken that hold both front line and management employees accountable."