Focus on Fixing the Streetcar, Not Fighting Workers

Streetcars made their last run in Washington, D.C. back in 1959. For the past 5 years DC City government is on track to rebuild the system, this time via a problematic public-private partnership. Plagued with delays and mismanagement, the new line is about to start service. More than $200 million has been spent to establish the first of what some hope will be several segments of new streetcar service in the growing city. Even prior to operation the D.C. Streetcar has stimulated economic development on the H Street Corridor, a long suffering neighborhood decimated by the 1968 riots.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) exercises control of the streetcar project, and the ultimate accountability now rests with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. Operations were contracted to the French-owned RATP Development/McDonald Transit RDMT firm, and a temporary employment agency, The Midtown Group.  McDonald is a global transit contractor and is the U.S. subsidiary of the RATP firm, best known for its operation of the bus and rail systems in Paris, France.  

Early in 2015 DC Streetcar workers sought to unionize and join Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 – the union representing workers at the enormous Metro bus and rail system in the region. Their organizing was driven by concerns over fairness, favoritism, safety, and the wage disparity between DC Streetcar and the Metro workers. When a union election was eventually scheduled for March 10th, McDonald and The Midtown Group fired 8 workers – a full 25% of the start-up staff. Workers were telephoned by the temp agency and told they were fired, and no written explanations were ever provided.

Immediately after the mass firings ATU filed official charges with the Labor Board (NLRB). Mayor Bowser, the DC City Council, and DDOT have all remained silent about this disgraceful violation of worker rights. In an online petition, ATU is calling on DC Mayor Bowser to protect workers’ rights at the DC Streetcar and reinstate the fired workers. ATU demands that city leaders “Fix it, Staff it, Start it!” as the way to move the DC Streetcar forward. Please sign our petition today.