Operators of Oklahoma City’s streetcars have spoken, and majority say they want to start a union. Health and security concerns, even a lack of bathroom breaks are among the top concerns.
Mail-in ballots for voting were sent out in August and counted on September 22. The results, two out of three people voting say a union is necessary.
Darryl Williams learned Monday morning his job operating streetcars came to end.
Herzog Transit Services, EMBARK’s contractor for streetcars, fired him he said for driving violations. Williams believes there’s an underlying issue.
“Since they know that we are unionizing, their statement is we don’t like it and now we’re nitpicking,” said Williams.
Bathroom breaks are among concerns of Williams. Getting one while working, he said, was increasingly challenging.
“You try to get (a break and we’re told) we really don’t have anybody to give you a break right now, we need to keep the streetcar moving,” said Williams.
Williams said security has become an issue with homeless getting hostile like urinating, spitting and other actions on the streetcar. He also alleges lax cleaning procedures.
“You might get on a streetcar that had been cleaned. I personally, it didn’t happen all the time and we’d let them know. We’d write it on our inspection,” said Williams.
According to EMBARK, streetcars are cleaned daily.
Herzog Transit Services provided News 9 with this statement:
“As an employee owned company, Herzog’s highest priority and responsibility is the safety and wellbeing of our customers who ride the streetcar, the general public in the vicinity of the streetcar and our employees who operate the streetcar. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have treated our employees like a member of our family by suppling everyone the necessary PPE to be safe, increasing the sanitation protocols of the streetcar fleet to ensure a clean and safe environment, and providing every Herzog employee a full paycheck regardless if they were able to work due to COVID-19 related situations. We have already started investigating the concerns brought to our attention in the press release as we are committed to delivering the cleanest and safest environment possible for the traveling public.”
Out of a contract, the local Amalgamated Transit Union president hopes for fairness.
“This was not an economic issue where the employees were seeking a higher monetary income,” said Chris Bourke, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 993. “It was issues that were not being addressed for safety and welfare of the employees.”
The local union has reached out to Herzog to begin negotiations. They said they have not heard back.
A spokesman for Herzog did not say whether the company would participate in contract negotiations.