On the Picket Line

After nine-day strike Maryland transit workers win wage raise

By Arlene Rubinstein
September 12, 2022

FORESTVILLE, Md. — After nine days on the picket line, striking Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 MetroAccess workers voted 91% to approve a new three-year agreement with Transdev Aug. 11. Transdev is one of four contractors that Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority hires to provide services for people whose disability prevents them from taking public transportation. 

Strikers fought for higher pay and against forced overtime. The union reported the company has been 100 workers short for over year. 

The strike was fueled in part by unsafe and inhuman work rules and lack of respect by bosses for workers and passengers alike. One rule denies bathroom breaks to drivers and to disabled passengers once a trip is in progress. Another gives passengers six minutes to get to the van or they’re denied service. 

Two days before the agreement was reached, some 200 striking drivers, dispatch, maintenance and utility workers and their supporters held a spirited rally at union headquarters, then filled the auditorium there where an open bargaining session with Transdev negotiators took place. 

Despite the hardships the strike imposed on passengers, the union won solidarity. “You make it possible for my friends to participate in the community — to go to school, to work, to see the doctor, to see our friends and family,” Carol Tyson, an activist with the Senior and Disability Community Group, told the rally. 

The workers won wage increases, with starting pay now $20.75 an hour, up from $17 under the old contract. Most senior workers now top out at $33.05, an increase of $9 an hour. 

“You can drain your body, and have no life, with as many as 12- to 13-hour shifts if you want, but what about time with your family?” Mischelle Woodfork, a paratransit driver with 12 years on the job, told the Militant. “I feel proud of everyone, uniting, and participating the way we did. I was surprised to see how strong we were.”