As a high volume of travelers prepared to head to and from the Washington All-Star Game on Tuesday, a WMATA strike loomed.
Metro employees voted Sunday to give union leadership authorization to strike, ATU Local 689 announced Monday. Members voted “yes” to planning a strike by a margin of 94 percent, according to a news release.
A Metro statement issued at 1:33 p.m. on Monday said discussions between WMATA and union officials were “ongoing.” WMATA’s board of directors released a statement about the potential strike later on Monday afternoon, saying collective bargaining was the path forward.
“First and foremost, it is important to keep the customers in mind – those who rely on Metro service every day, who support the regional economy and our federal government. To ensure that Metro is always there for the millions who rely on us, the region has made a commitment to increase capital investment in Metro with the understanding that a similar commitment be made by Metro to tackle tough issues, involving solving growing costs,” the statement from WMATA’s board read.
“General Manager [Paul Wiedefeld] and his team are working to make these difficult decisions while also protecting current employees. We must find solutions together by continuing to talk and listen, as Chairman Evans recently did in a meeting with union leadership. The collective bargaining process is appropriate and legal path to finding solutions,” the statement continued.
WMATA workers haven’t organized a strike since 1978 – a strike that lasted a week and occurred without the authorization of union leadership. ATU Local 689 said in a news release that it doesn’t plan to make a timeline of the strike public.
The potential strike comes at a precarious time for Metro. WMATA announced in May that several Metro stations, including all of Alexandria’s stations, will be closed during the summer of 2019 for renovations. In addition, the elimination of the planned Potomac Yard Metro’s southern entrance from the station’s plans has drawn ire from Alexandria residents.
WMATA and the labor union held a discussion on Tuesday morning and will gather for another discussion on Wednesday, according to WMATA.