William J. FordCommunity

Metro Union Rails Against Agency’s Sick-Leave Policy

Members of Metro’s largest union made another statement Friday in opposition to the transit agency’s stance on sick leave, but this time had a doctor to help make its case.

Richard Binder, professor at the school medicine for Virginia Commonwealth University at the INOVA campus in Fairfax and Georgetown University, stood during a news conference outside the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 shop in northwest D.C. to represent the medical community.

He called Metro’s policy for workers to give advanced notification on being sick “ludicrous.”

“If everybody knew they were going to be sick 72 hours before they got sick, then we could close all the emergency rooms around the country,” he said. “We’re threatening both the health of the membership of the union and the health of the riding population.”

Jampsea Campbell (left), a Metro bus operator, explains the transit agency's sick-leave requirements to Lautaro Cabrera, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, during a news conference outside the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 headquarters in D.C. on April 28. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Jampsea Campbell (left), a Metro bus operator, explains the transit agency’s sick-leave requirements to Lautaro Cabrera, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, during a news conference outside the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 headquarters in D.C. on April 28. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Metro workers in attendance, including Jerr Dantzler of Silver Spring, covered their faces with hospital masks, which they said they would need to wear to protect themselves and riders.

“You never know when you are going to be sick,” said Dantzler of Silver Spring. “You have to make allowances for these types of things. That’s why it’s called sick leave.”

Metro officials have a different view.

The agency implemented a revised absenteeism policy March 1 to reduce the number of employees taking off.

In February, an internal review showed more than 100 employees had extended leave beyond the time limits and another 100 employees were reviewed to determine proper disposition of their employee status.

One of the union’s main contentions with the policy is that employees are now required to provide a 72-hour notice to receive “pre-approved sick leave.”

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Thursday workers can still call on the same day to inform a supervisor if they become ill. The policy states a person must report an absence “no later than one hour before their scheduled report time.”

Wiedefeld said the agency has a right to implement the policy, based on cost savings and attendance history.

The union contends it should’ve been negotiated with the union, just like the previous policy.

Meanwhile, workers handed out small pieces of paper to passersby at the Friendship Heights Metro station with a message reading, in part: “My boss wants me to get my passengers sick. Tell [Wiedefeld] it is asinine to expect 72-hour notice for acute illness.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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