- - Thursday, May 19, 2016


Last week, Washington Times writer Deborah Simmons wrote a baseless piece supporting the outsourcing and privatization of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) transit system (“Metro workers slam union, WMATA,” Web, May 12).

In no uncertain terms, the members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 want Metro to be a safe, affordable and reliable transit system, and we know that privatization won’t make that happen, which is why we oppose it. And we reach that conclusion based on the facts.

The D.C. Circulator is a glaring example of the failures of privatization. Just last August, the Transit Resource Center, an independent transit consulting firm, conducted an audit on Circulator buses and found that 95 percent of all the buses had at least one safety problem so significant that they should have been pulled from service, but were not. D.C. Circulator is managed by First Transit, a private operator.

The failures of privatizing public transit can also be seen around the country from Savannah, Ga., to Fairfield, Calif., to Nassau County, N.Y. By looking at any of these jurisdictions, there is evidence that outsourcing public transit drives up fares, jeopardizes safety, results in service cuts and fosters an environment ripe for political corruption. But Ms. Simmons‘ piece doesn’t allow those facts get in the way.

She also takes the opportunity to overgeneralize the sentiments of ATU Local 689’s members by talking to a terminated employee and two members who were rejected by Local 689’s membership in their respective bids for elected positions with the union.

Local 689 represents more than 13,000 active and retired bus and rail operators, station managers, and maintenance and clerical employees. Basing the attitudes of the union’s entire membership on the experiences of two rank-and-file members and a terminated employee is both irresponsible and unethical.

Metro is dealing with a historic number of challenges that need to be addressed with fierce urgency, but privatizing the system fails to address those challenges. In fact, it makes the challenges worse by transferring the responsibility of public safety to a private company whose main concern is profit. Ms. Simmons‘ response to the issue is as irresponsible as those who fail to properly fund the system to keep it safe.


President, Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689


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