Metro derailed by culture of complacence, incompetence, lack of diversity

‘Inept get promoted, … capable get buried’

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“Some new people, especially earlier on, would come in so enthusiastic, like little boys who liked to have toy trains. But when you put them out there with a supervisor who didn’t care about anything except covering his butt, it killed their enthusiasm” she said.

Pencil-whipping

Days after a Red Line accident killed nine in July 2009, Brenda Whorton drew the line.

“I told them I wasn’t going to pencil-whip for them,” she said, referring to a technique so common in Metro culture that there is a term for it. “It means fudging it: like marking down that a motor’s according to specs when it’s not.” It is common for midnight-shift workers to “lock the doors and go to sleep, because they’ve got other jobs,” and equally common for supervisors to turn a blind eye, she said, leading to pencil-whipping of the inspections they’re supposed to be doing — and delays for morning riders.

“Anyone who blew the whistle or caused any trouble, when pick time came — every six months you pick shifts — you’d be moved. They spend more time trying to manipulate this stuff than they do doing their job.”

Dozens said white workers, especially women, were openly subject to racist and sexist remarks without repercussion — behavior that drove many targets to seek transfers or leave the agency. All said they have been inexplicably passed over hundreds of times for promotions to positions such as station manager while others with less seniority passed them by.

“I was the only white woman in car maintenance out of 338, and they made my life miserable,” Ms. Whorton said, adding that colleagues once electrified a track circuit on which she was working and laughed. “Nothing happened to them.”

Union dues and don’ts

In its affirmative-action plan, Metro management contends that union policies dictate who receives jobs, stifling ability to provide diversity. “Unless these protected groups are already employed in the collective bargaining food chain, good faith efforts to transfer or promote them are non-existent. This scenario further creates a vicious cycle with more of the same groups being promoted or transferred,” managers wrote.

Most workers are required to join the Amalgamated Transit Union 689, and a curious arrangement allows many managers to retain their affiliation with the union, creating an alliance in which disciplining poor-performing workers is discouraged.

“To write someone up within the 689, you just don’t do that,” Ms. Whorton said.

The union has acknowledged that many employees are aware of safety issues and theft and do not report them because of a culture in which retaliation is common. It says that’s impropriety from management and that the union will work to protect whistleblowers if they ask.

Union President Jackie L. Jeter noted that the union isn’t in charge of hiring and said that whites, women and Hispanics must not be applying for jobs.

“If Caucasians or Hispanics want to put in for jobs, they have ample opportunity to apply — and once they become bus operators, they can go work in Southeast,” she said.

White women say those words are uttered repeatedly to those who apply for jobs and those in their first years, but that it is more of an attempt at intimidation than a reality.

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