The Metro Washington Public Health Association, DC Jobs with Justice, and many others have been pushing Metro to hire and retain workers who have previously served their time in jail or prison. More than 7,000 people return to DC neighborhoods from prison and jail each year, and these residents disproportionately tend to be African-American. These returning citizens have an urgent need for good jobs. Further, there is an urgent need for Metro – as a publicly funded and large institution – to provide good jobs to DC residents, especially these returning citizens.
Two weeks ago, Metro fired Mr. Lescount Jackson, a bus operator who returned to work after a year of cancer treatments. His shop steward immediately filed a grievance. Union and MWPHA members and DC JWJ members circulated a letter demanding his immediate reinstatement that drew over 45 signatures in hours and organized a rally at the Metro Board meeting.
On March 26, Metro rehired Mr. Jackson!
Mr. Jackson’s friend reported:
How grateful he is to have you guys jump to his corner and did not even know him. Shows that you guys just don’t talk the talk. You guys make it happen.
Thank you to everyone who signed the letter and planned to rally. Our MWPHA Health Disparities Committee and friends will continue to push Metro to change its hiring policy. There are many others denied employment there. One woman was convicted for riding in a stolen car, lost her Metro job, her house, and moved out of the area, leaving her son.
This policy has a racist impact. While Metro applies these policies to all workers, they disproportionately affect African American workers. The police patrol and arrest more African American residents for drug possession than white workers although drug use is similar across the DC Wards. These barriers contribute to the extremely high unemployment rates among African Americans, now 50% among young people, the same rate in Spain and Greece.
Now, Metro plans to privatize some of its bus lines and raise fares for riders, blaming Metro workers for earning too much money and benefits. This must stop! Businesses, such as the Verizon Center and Nationals Park, couldn’t survive without Metro. Let them pay! Help MWPHA build an alliance of workers, the public, and public health to fight these inequalities.
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