- Monday's MetroAccess driver protest. (Photo: John Hendel)
MetroAccess bus drivers are worried about their long hours, we've learned in the last week. Last Friday I talked about a driver union's concerns, about the fear of fatigue that accompanied the new 13-hour schedules instituted by MV Transportation, the California-based organization that runs MetroAccess, about six weeks ago. The union arranged a protest at the MetroAccess headquarters in Hyattsville as well as at the Jackson Graham WMATA headquarters on Monday, and I was there bright and early at the first place. My account and photos are here. MetroAccess is the paratransit service of WMATA and is responsible for transporting about 2.5 million people with disabilities. The union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1764, represents about 800 drivers.
Today a disturbing and sad video from a MetroAccess bus driver illustrates the very concerns I heard drivers voicing at the protest. The video features a driver speaking in a distorted voice looking over a schedule board. What we see is the difficulty a driver faces in arranging any break, as hours after hours go by without any breaks. The two-and-a-half minute video is titled "10 Hours Later...." and was uploaded today by the YouTube user MeanBlackDude.
"This is absolute slavery," the driver says. "We often work 12 to 16 hours a day without a lunch break, water break, or a bathroom break. This is absolute slavery. We are driving. We need to be totally focused on the road, and this just does not happen at MV. Their main concern is 'Get the route out at any cost.'"
It's a passionate speech and highlights why these union workers are protesting. The frustration completely harmonizes with what I saw Monday morning. I even have suspicions about who this very driver is — the story harmonizes well with some of the profoundly stretched schedules described in front of the Hyattsville MetroAccess building on Belcrest Road. The union hopes to repeat their protests on Thursday to emphasize their emotional concerns. Underneath the drivers' talk is a subtle, very real fear presented to MV Transportation: When will a rider be killed due to how thin these schedules stretch the drivers?
Don't take my word for it though. Watch the chilling video after the jump: