Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

A station manager's message for 'these white people who hate Metro'

August 9, 2011 - 02:23 PM
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Lord of the station. (Photo: flickr/mbonness)

As much as Metro wants to control its message, online remarks from a WMATA employee belie the official smoothness that has characterized Metro Forward and express a far harsher outlook, reflecting pent-up frustration at both Metro customers as well as the media covering D.C. transportation.

My recent posts have highlighted the efforts of Metro's overall leadership in hiring Dan Stessel and Brian Anderson to give the organization more transparency and engagement with the people who pay (dearly) to ride the rails. But the official vision emanating from Metro sometimes runs up in tonally startling ways with the views and opinions from the many men and women who work for WMATA, from its bus operators to station managers to maintenance crews. As I noted earlier today, that friction is readily apparent when you look at the differing reactions from the WMATA board and Amalgamated Local 689 over the arbitration news regarding Metro union workers' raise.

Earlier today, an individual identified as Ozzie L. Andrews on Facebook lashed out about how people have discussed Metro recently. The person's background is listed as Rail Station Manager ("Certified Rail Station Manager, Line Platform Instructor, and Utility Depot Clerk"), working from April 2000 to present. The name and employer are confirmed by a list of political donations to Vincent Gray's mayoral campaign — here, I see that Andrews lived in Northeast D.C. in 2010 and contributed $100 by credit card. One Facebook update indicated an age of early 40s. Many updates, publicly available and visible online, allude to the transit job duties. Today, Andrews wrote the following:

Good Morning Facebook Family_I have a problem with these damn Examiner, Unsuck DC Metro People and Catherine Hudgins our Board Chairwoman. I challenge any one of these people to put on a blue or white shirt and come out in the field/on the front line to see if they could make it through a day without going the f**k off on someone. It may appear to be an easy task but trust me it's not.

Fair enough. I imagine the life of a Metro employee does come with countless frustrations. I imagine restraint is a necessary virtue of doing the job well. Ozzie should be respected for what apparently amounts to a decade of work for WMATA, and I can see how the rage would carry over onto some of the media, like The Examiner and the Metro-critical blog Unsuck DC Metro. Those same frustrations emerged at Amalgamated Local 689's public town hall meeting from earlier this summer.

"We have been raked over the coals by The Examiner," Metro union president Jackie Jeter told the crowd less than two months ago. "We have been raked over the coals by entities like Unsuck DC."

Andrews continued to voice outrage in another message that was slightly less politically sensitive:

We deserve our pay raise and some, I refuse to let haters and these white people who hate Metro kill my belief, my vision, my purpose, my peace, and my joy. They have nothing else better to do but complain and yes f**kup the USA only to have a brother in the white house trying to fix what they broke-ain't that some sugahoneyicetea. Love you fam for letting me vent today!!

Who are the "white people who hate Metro"? Again, this note comes from a station manager.

I wouldn't expect or want Metro to exert complete dominance over its employees' social media habits. Andrews should be allowed to voice some thoughts on all this, naturally enough, but the incident is a valuable example of how no narrative is as simple as it appears. Why is race so intrinsically tied to the worker's assessment of how people see and talk about Metro? It's a defiant message yet consistent with many of the stresses and pressures of the job. Many workers feel able to vent online, as Andrews has done, but what emerges often reveals frictions and tensions inherent and deeper than suspected. Are these isolated thoughts from a station manager or do they reflect more broadly the sentiments among Metro workers?

The reality is always more complicated than a tag line, customer service call, or explanatory video. It's worth remembering.

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(Photo: Facebook)
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