LORTON, Va. — Some 130 Metrobus workers from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 at the Cinder Bed Road have been on strike since Oct. 24. They were briefly joined by nearly 600 Fairfax Connector workers, members of ATU Local 1764, who went on strike Dec. 5 for four days, facing some of the same issues before returning to work. The combined strikes impacted some 40,000 passengers in northern Virginia.
Both groups of workers are employed by Transdev, a French-owned multinational transit company, which operates in 200 cities in the U.S. and Canada. The Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority has contracted out services to Transdev to cut costs and weaken the union.
“We are fighting for equal pay for equal work,” Tharien Graham, a 22-year-old driver, told the Militant. “We drive Metro buses but we make $12 less an hour than Metro workers.
“As each day passes I go deeper in debt,” he added. “I have to use my credit card to pay my car and rent bills. And our health care deductible is $6,000. We have to stand up.”
After six weeks on strike here, spirit and determination of the workers remains strong. They keep up large picket lines at the Cinder Bed Road garage, and supporters bring firewood, coffee and food in solidarity.
“Safety is paramount in this strike,” said ATU Local 689 driver James Duffy. “When you work split shifts — from 4:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then 2:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. — you’re not rested.”
The drivers got some international solidarity when French railway workers — many of whom also work for Transdev — went on strike Dec. 5 and joined some 800,000 workers and their allies protesting across the country. From the march in Paris, CGT Railway Federation International Affairs Director David Gobé sent a video of support to the ATU.