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D.C. Transit Union Wants To Organize Streetcar Workers

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The opening date for the D.C. streetcar is not the only aspect of the project mired in uncertainty. The local transit union is attempting to organize the future streetcar operators and maintenance workers.

"This whole process has been one of the most frustrating I've ever dealt with," says Jackie Jeter, the president of ATU Local 689. She is unhappy with the District's intention to privatize not only the streetcar operations, but also a city-wide transit system integrating streetcars with Circulator and intra-city Metro buses; they would be taken over by the District Department of Transportation.

"Two hundred to 500 of the people that I represent would be out of a job because if DDOT takes over that service, that means Metro would no longer run it," Jeter says.

The transit plan is scheduled for a final vote before the D.C. Council June 24. Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh chairs the Council's transportation committee. She says future streetcar and bus operators and mechanics will not be precluded from joining the union.

"If down the road — and it would be up to DDOT to decide to privatize — if they were to do that, we could provide that they do that under circumstances of rolling over into the new service the current operators, the current workers, the union," Jeter says.

She says that even without union representation, the workers would be entitled to prevailing wages that are comparable to what Metro employees earn. Local 689 opposes the privatization of any Metro bus routes, saying the District is trying to obtain a cheaper labor force. DDOT declined to comment.

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