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Striking ART Bus Drivers Fired, County Reacts

by ARLnow.com | June 23, 2011 at 9:25 am | 2,628 views | 71 Comments

County transit contractor Forsythe Transportation has fired 35 ART bus drivers who went on strike to protest alleged sexual harassment and other grievances.

In a statement, Forsythe said the drivers were fired for violating a clause in their contract that prevented them from striking unless the company violated terms of an arbitration.

“We knew that this could happen, but we were surprised by the number of terminations,” Arlington County Transit Bureau Chief Stephen Del Giudice told ARLnow.com. “It’s a regrettable situation all the way around… It’s regrettable that drivers took the job action, and its regrettable that Forsythe felt the need to terminate the employees.”

Del Giudice said that the county was “not a party to the contract between Forsythe and its drivers” and therefore was limited in terms of what it could do to help resolve the conflict.

“It would be inappropriate for us to interfere in their labor relations,” he said.

The initial service disruption caused by the sudden strike last Monday was quickly resolved as Forsythe managers stepped in to handle the routes of striking drivers. The company then went on a hiring spree to fill the bus driver positions left vacant by the strike. Full service was restored by Friday, Del Giudice said.

One of the new drivers was involved in a minor accident yesterday, but Del Giudice said that the new hires are all licensed and experienced bus drivers who have been drug tested and “given training in Forsythe’s operating procedures and our [ART] routes.”

“We’re going to continue to insist on Forsythe providing the highest standard of safe and reliable service for our customers,” Del Giudice said.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | June 20, 2011 at 8:55 am | 2,054 views | 22 Comments

Bomb Threat on DCA Flight — There were some tense moments at Reagan National Airport yesterday after a flight from Dayton, Ohio was sequestered and searched for explosives. Nothing was found, however. An individual who made a bomb threat at the Dayton airport ticket counter was taken into custody, the FBI said. [Bloomberg]

New Principals Named — Arlington Public Schools have named two new principals. Kenwyn Schaffner has been named the principal of Jamestown Elementary School and Bridget Loft has been named the principal of Swanson Middle School. “Ms. Loft was greeted by cheers and a standing ovation when she was introduced to the Swanson staff after the announcement of appointment,” an insider tells us. [Arlington Public Schools]

Rousselot Endorses Areizaga-Soto — Former Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Peter Rousselot has endorsed Jaime Areizaga-Soto in his primary battle against Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola for state Senate. [JaimeForSenate.com]

ART Drivers File Human Rights Complaint — Striking Arlington Transit bus drivers have filed a complaint with the Arlington Human Rights Commission, claiming “ongoing sexual harassment from county contractor Forsythe Transportation.” [Washington Examiner]

Jogging With Grassley — Part-time Arlington resident Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) recently went jogging through his neighborhood with 15 young constituents who were in town for the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. [ECT.coop]

Flickr pool photo by Christaki

Board: ART Labor Dispute “Must Be Resolved”

by ARLnow.com | June 16, 2011 at 9:32 am | 1,887 views | 33 Comments

County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman says that the labor dispute between a group of unionized drivers and Arlington Transit contractor Forsythe Transportation “must be resolved, immediately.”

In a statement on behalf of the rest of the board, Zimmerman said that the ART bus drivers’ concerns — about sexual harassment and the disciplining of a union leader — “need to be taken seriously.”

Here’s Zimmerman’s full statement.

Since Monday a dispute between the management of Forsythe Transportation, with whom Arlington contracts to operate the County’s ART bus service, and bus drivers represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3001, has resulted in service disruptions and a significant reduction of service on many ART routes. This situation is simply unacceptable.

Drivers have expressed concerns that need to be taken seriously, including allegations of sexual harassment, and the improper disciplining of a union representative. As this is a labor relations issue between a private company and its workers, Arlington County has no authority to intervene in this matter. However, we call on both parties to work together to resolve the issues and quickly restore full bus service for ART patrons. We urge both sides to utilize all available legal mechanisms to work toward resolution of the issues, including mediation services (such as the Northern Virginia Mediation Service affiliated with George Mason University).

It is critical to move expeditiously to resolve these issues and restore bus service at normal levels. We call for an immediate agreement between management and labor that will provide for the prompt restoration of service and an impartial investigation of worker’s concerns and a fair mediation of the matters in dispute.

Since its inception just over a decade ago, ART has been a steadily growing service, now carrying more than 2 million riders per year. It is increasingly important to the achievement of key goals of this community, including improving quality of life by offering more transportation choices, attaining a range of environmental objectives, reducing traffic congestion, and contributing to the vitality of business. It must continue to be reliable. The current dispute must be resolved, immediately.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | June 14, 2011 at 7:00 am | 2,181 views | 52 Comments

Striking ART Drivers Fired — The Examiner’s Liz Essley reports that the Arlington Transit bus drivers who went on strike yesterday have been fired by Forsythe Transportation, the contractor that operates ART buses. The paper also reports that the labor dispute came to a head when Forsythe fired the head of the bus drivers union last week. ART buses are operating on a reduced frequency schedule today, with all routes in service except the 61B route. [Washington Examiner, Arlington Transit]

Airport Uniforms Found in Ballston — Three pairs of airport employee uniforms and a Washington Reagan Airport safety vest have been found in the bushes outside Carpool restaurant in Ballston (4000 Fairfax Drive). The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Arlington police are investigating how the uniforms wound up there. [WJLA]

Arlington Mill Construction Contract Awarded — Construction on the new Arlington Mill Community Center is scheduled to begin in August, after the County Board awarded a $27.6 million construction contract for the project over the weekend. “Redeveloping the old Arlington Mill Community Center site into a mixed-used facility with a new community center, gymnasium, retail space and a parking garage is part of the County’s efforts to foster a vibrant, walkable urban village along Columbia Pike,” the county said in a press release. [Arlington County]

Goodbye, Hollywood Video — A shuttered Hollywood Video store and a small office building along Wilson Boulevard are set for demolition this month. The buildings are being razed to make way for a 191-unit apartment complex, which will include a parking garage and ground-level retail space. [Washington Business Journal]

UPDATED: Delays on All ART Bus Routes

by ARLnow.com | June 13, 2011 at 7:53 am | 3,139 views | 82 Comments

Update at 4:15 p.m. — All evening ART routes are in operation tonight except the 61B. However, many routes will operate less frequently than usual. See the ART web site for more information. Arlington officials say that about 23 bus drivers did not report to work today.

Update at 8:45 a.m. — We’re told via Twitter and email that drivers are striking near the Courthouse Metro station.

Arlington Transit bus riders are being told to “expect delays on all routes” this morning.

The agency says the delays are “due to circumstances beyond our control.” ARLnow.com hears that bus drivers have called in sick en masse due to a wage labor dispute.

ART is also advising that the 61B bus is not in service, and that riders should use the 61A instead.

The Sun Gazette reported over the weekend that the County Board discussed “management-labor issues with the contractor that runs the Arlington Transit (ART) bus service.” Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey described the discussion as a “pander-a-thon” in favor of the bus drivers, who are paid less than their counterparts at Metro.

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