For immediate release: March 29, 2020

Metro GM, pandemic task force, and union leader host online employee town hall; thank them for ‘making the essential possible’

Metro invited its 12,000 employees – including thousands of frontline transit workers, police officers, and other mission-critical personnel – to have their COVID-19 questions and concerns addressed at an online town hall this afternoon on Facebook Live. The event offered an opportunity for Metro employees to get answers from the General Manager and subject matter experts on Metro’s Pandemic Task Force, including Chief Safety Officer Theresa Impastato, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amy Espy-Smith, and Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader.

General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld opened the event with a personal message of gratitude for the more than 4,000 Metro employees in frontline positions, without whom trains and buses would not run. “When our region’s leaders talk about essential travel only, you make the essential possible,” he said.

Wiedefeld shared that similar sentiment had been expressed by the region’s elected and transportation leaders, Governor Ralph Northam, Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater, who have praised the dedication and commitment to duty of the region’s transit employees.

“This public health emergency has shown us the importance of public transit. The dedication of our Metro employees, staying on the job so that our regional transit system can remain functional for those who need it, is to be commended. I thank them for their public service,” Governor Northam said.

“I want to commend the entire workforce at WMATA for their outstanding public service during this unprecedented public health emergency,” said Mayor Bowser.  “I know that we will get through this together as a city and as a region, and on behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia, I offer sincere gratitude for the work that you do each and every day.”

“As we’ve seen in times of prosperity and in times of crisis, the transit workforce serves as the lifeline for the region. We are grateful for their service-oriented leadership in this emergency and thank them for ensuring people have access to the essentials through this pandemic,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary Slater. “Without transit employees, the region would be at a severe disadvantage in the fight against COVID-19.”

Metro’s partnership with the leaders of its largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, has been one of respect, cooperation, and shared concern for the health and welfare of Metro’s frontline employees. Local 689 President Raymond Jackson participated in the event and answered several questions for employees.

“We have worked hard with management to protect our members through team staffing, rear-door boarding, and extra cleaning that are critical to operating safe service during this public health emergency,” said Jackson. "We could not be more proud of how our members have stepped up during this critical time. It’s their work that keeps this region functioning.”

Employee questions, solicited via all-employee emails and submitted in advance, focused heavily on PPE (personal protective equipment), and other protection for employees, cleaning protocols, leave provisions for employees who come in close contact with an individual who tests positive, and what Metro’s financial future looks like.

Following the town hall, all employees received an email message from the Metro Board of Directors thanking them for their service.

“Metro’s workforce of 12,000 talented individuals not only keeps the region moving, they are also our neighbors and friends, with the same concerns and family pressures we all have right now,” Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg said.  “Yet you have worked around the clock to deliver medical professionals, first responders, food service workers, and people who need rides to the supermarket, to their destinations. Metro employees are fulfilling our important public mission, and we salute and appreciate you.”

Despite concerns about childcare, pre-existing health conditions, and other family and economic pressures created by the virus, Metro employees have continued to provide essential bus, rail, and paratransit service for the national capital region.