WMATA union threatens strike during baseball's All-Star week

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WASHINGTON — Just as Major League Baseball's elite face balls and strikes at the 2018 All Star Game, local transit officials face a strike of their own.

Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents some 65 percent of the Washington Metropolitans Area Transit Authority's work force, on July 15 authorized its leadership to call a strike. However union officials have not said if they will call a strike, according to local media.

The Washington Post reports that Metro workers are forbidden to strike under the agency's governing compact, so a judge or arbitrator could force employees back to work. However, any short work stoppage could cause problems. Thousands of baseball fans converging on Nationals Park in the U.S. capital city for the July 17 event are expected to add to some 1 million daily commuters the system normally carries.

As of Monday morning, WMATA had not responded to the union vote.

According to the union's website, members are “fed up with the disrespect from the WMATA General Manager to workers and riders.”

On July 12, the union started circulating a petition to fire General Manager Paul Wiedefeld.

“He has refused to bargain with us at every turn and continues to violate our negotiated contract. Instead, he is choosing to arbitrate issues that are already decided, along with issues negotiated and bargained in the past,” says Jackie L. Jeter, president of the union local. She accused Wiedefeld of replacing union employees with “substandard” outside contractors.

There has been ill will between Wiedefeld and the union since he took assumed the top job in 2015. They have demonstrated against job cuts, and contracting out work formerly done by union employees. During the July 4 holiday week, employees reported late for work to snarl the system.
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