REX service affected by bus operators strike

Workers holding signs that say ATU on Strike
Workers at the Cinder Bed Road garage are seen striking Thursday morning. (Amalgamated Transit Union image)

Richmond Highway Express (REX) buses are running on a Sunday schedule because of a bus operator strike that began early Thursday morning.

A number of other routes in Northern Virginia are affected by the strike, including 29K, 29G, 29H, 29C, 29N, 29W, 17B, 17G, 17H, 17M, 17K, S80, S91, 18P, 18G, 18J, and 18H. Of those routes, the 17B, 17G, 17H, 17K, 17L, 17M, 18G, 18H, 18J, 18P, 29C, 29G, 29W and S80 are not running at all.

The REX Sunday schedule can be viewed here.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) announced that workers at Metro’s Cinder Bed Bus Garage in Lorton would be going on strike yesterday. The garage is Metro’s only privately operated bus garage, run by Transdev.

The ATU Local 689 says Transdev workers are the victims of unfair labor practices since the company took over in 2018. The two sides had been in negotiations with the company since February, but no agreement was reached.

“Workers at Cinder Bed Road are demanding that they receive the same pay and benefits that other regional bus operators make,” the union said in a statement. “The Local 689 members at Cinder Bed drive the same routes, on the same roads, with the same buses as WMATA, but they earn $12 per hour less than other operators in the region just because they work for a private contractor.”

The Cinder Bed Road garage accounts for only about 5 percent of MetroBus routes, the union said.

Lee District Supervisor candidate Rodney Lusk, who is running unopposed as a Democrat, visited the workers on Tuesday and expressed solidarity with their cause.

“I stand [ATU Local 169] in their fight for better working conditions and fair pay,” Lusk said in a tweet. “The residents and businesses of Lee District cannot afford decreased access to public transportation, but all of that comes second to safety and respect for the transit workers who make the system run.”

Rodney Lusk marches with two workers. All are holding signs.
Lee District Supervisor candidate Rodney Lusk, center, walks with striking workers on Thursday. (SEIU image)

James Walkinshaw, a Democrat running for supervisor in Braddock District, also expressed support for the striking workers. Additionally, Walkinshaw faulted Metro for not being better prepared for the strike.

“This work stoppage was not a surprise (the drivers voted to authorize a strike in August) and yet [WMATA] seems to have been caught unprepared and failed to communicate with riders that they should be prepared to find alternative transportation,” Walkinshaw said in a tweet. “That’s not good enough.”

It’s unclear when the strike will end, but negotiations were set to continue on Thursday morning, WTOP reported. Besides pay, the sticking points for ATU Local 689 include health insurance, with Cinder Bed’s workers having a $6,000 deductible while WMATA employees have no deductible, the union said. The workers also want improvements related to safety and working conditions.

“Transdev and WMATA cut corners at every turn with the Cinder Bed Facility. These workers are toiling at far lower hourly wages than their public sector MetroBus counterparts despite driving the same vehicles on the same routes,” ATU International President John Costa said in a press release. “The Cinder Bed workers have walked off the job because they’ve had enough.”