Metro Derailed by Culture of Complacence, Incompetence, Lack of Diversity

Luke Rosiak, Washington Times, March 26, 2012

Ninety-seven percent of the bus and train operators at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are black, with only six white women out of more than 3,000 drivers, according to Metro documents—a lack of diversity at one of the region’s largest employers that has led to an acknowledgment of failure in affirmative-action documents and spawned a series of lawsuits.

The homogeneity, interviews with dozens of current and former Metro workers indicated, is a proxy to a clubby culture of favoritism in which merit has little to do with promotions, and accountability, such as noting safety violations, is a career death knell. In typical examples, court and Metro records show, a black man who spent eight years in prison for dealing PCP was promoted to a high-level management position soon after his release, and whites in the same positions as blacks with far less seniority are inexplicably paid less.

With Metro’s budget chronically strained and reports of mismanagement coming more regularly than trains, interviews and internal records depict a likely root: an environment in which hardworking employees are actively excluded and those who rise are those willing to do the bare minimum—never causing a stir by flagging rampant safety violations, reporting malfeasance or proposing improvements.

“When the accident happened in 2009, I called a supervisor and said, ‘Is this the one we all dreaded?’ The way workers do their jobs, we all knew it was a matter of time. … The inept get promoted, and the capable get buried. Smart people were put in the corner, ostracized and given nothing to do,” said Christine Townsend, who sued Metro for discrimination and won.

It is a culture in which a white male engineer near completion of a Ph.D. was passed over for a management position in favor of a black man who was barely literate, multiple staffers said.

“The average rider wouldn’t believe the things that go on. There are so many easy things we could do to make the system better,” a station manager said. “But they’d never put me in charge because they know I’d make sure others actually did their jobs. They don’t want change. It’s go along to get along.”

Metro is a quasi-public agency that receives funding from the federal government, Maryland, Virginia and local jurisdictions to operate a regional bus and rail transportation system in the national capital area, but is not beholden to rules that apply to fully governmental entities. With a $2.5 billion operating and capital budget for fiscal 2012, Metrorail serves 86 stations and has 106 miles of track, while Metrobus serves the nation’s capital with 1,500 buses.

Metro’s affirmative-action plan notes that the 1.4 percent of its bus and train operators who are Hispanic and the 25 percent who are female of any race are “less than reasonably expected.” It does not make note of the 1.5 percent who are white.

Even in entry-level occupations typically dominated by Hispanics, there are virtually none at Metro. Only one laborer out of 67 is Hispanic; of 540 landscapers, carpenters and cleaners, only 22 are Hispanic. In the national capital region, Hispanics make up 13 percent of adults and blacks comprise 25 percent; white women constitute 29 percent.

“The odds of such a disparity occurring by chance are statistically infinitesimal,” Ronald A. Schmidt, a lawyer representing 12 white women exploring a class-action lawsuit, wrote in a 2003 letter. “There appears to be an entrenched network of African-American employees at WMATA that is able to steer jobs, promotion, training and other career enhancing benefit to persons of their own racial or ethnic group.”

The average Metro worker had a $60,000 salary, which rises to $69,000 including overtime. That is more than 71 percent of area residents who had an income in 2010, including 62 percent of whites, census records show.

No recourse

White and Hispanic employees who allege discrimination have found a deaf ear at Metro’s civil rights office, whose 17 employees are black. Until at least 1999, that office tracked complaints via a handwritten ledger on a series of taped-together sheets of paper, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times. The system “made determining statistics impossible,” said a civil rights employee from the time.

In recent months, such antiquated record keeping has allowed employees to steal thousands of dollars that electronic systems easily could have detected—and in more than one case, a culture of complicity has kept prosecutors from trying those who were caught because they feared no clean witness or proper records could be found.

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  • IstvanIN

    Can you spell reparations in action? 

  • holyflower

    “It is a culture in which a white male engineer near completion of a Ph.D. was passed over for a management position in favor of a black man who was barely literate, multiple staffers said.”
    ===

    Rudyard Kipling’s ”The White Man’s Burden,” 19th century version,  below, is but a pale imitation of “The White Man’s Burden,” 21st century edition.  But the 19th century version still capture the spirit of the doomed enterprise:   

    Take up the White Man’s burden–Send forth the best ye breed–Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need;To wait in heavy harness,On fluttered folk and wild–Your new-caught, sullen peoples,Half-devil and half-child.

  • The_Bobster

    Proving what I always thought: 100% diverse = 100% black. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  • WmarkW

    I comment regularly on WashingtonPost.com (political slant aside, it’s far superior journalism).

    Wonder if they take links from the OP under their near-daily Metro problems article.

  • sbuffalonative

    Ninety-seven percent of the bus and train operators at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are black

    White and Hispanic employees who allege discrimination have found a deaf ear at Metro’s civil rights office, whose 17 employees are black.

    It is a culture in which a white male engineer near completion of a Ph.D. was passed over for a management position in favor of a black man who was barely literate, multiple staffers said.

    This is the natural end result of  ‘critical mass’.

    • IstvanIN

      It is called Zimbabwe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hunter.morrow1 Hunter Morrow

    2994 black men driving buses and trains. What could possibly go wrong?

  • radical7

    Of course, there are no incompent White people or White run organizations.

    • ViktorNN

      Are you white?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/HV55BHYHMLRCFV3SP3TAHTNGKE chris

      Of course there are.  The DNC comes to mind.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FWMCMK6U5OWRHYIYJAF2TPFL2U thomas

      Well not apparently at WMATA, since they are being openly discriminated against.

    • anonymous_amren

      There’s some overlap between black people and white people. So there are some incompetent white people, and there are some competent black people.

      The difference is in the proportions. Most white people are competent. Most black people are incompetent.

      Also, incompetent black people are deliberately hired in the name of affirmative action.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/326VY5M3KLIUQAEPDALN36UH6M Tony

        One South African black man has remarked ‘We blacks rage at our own incompetence’

    • Pandemonium

      Liberals comes to mind when I read incompent (sic) White people, and you. But I repeat myself.

  • ViktorNN

    This is a classic case of “multiculturalism” and “diversity” in action.

    White liberals have the deluded belief that such belief systems will create a world where every group has equal opportunity and is equally respected and valued.

    Non-whites know that these are rhetorical tools that they can use to take power, improve their own lot, and discriminate against every other competing group – especially whites.

    Along these lines, I expect things to get much worse before they get better. Frankly, I’m skeptical about things ever getting better in this country.

  • radical7

    Chris:

    Perhaps. However, it seems that the RNC and the current GOP field has demonstrated far more incompetence and, in many ways, have been rather amusing in their shenanigans.

    • The_Bobster

      Jamal, aren’t there any toilets that need scrubbing?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XWI54NZMQMF47NXYB2EEQAFLKA Orville

    Zimbabwe.

  • JackKrak

    Surely part of the lack of whites is due to self-selection. There  is a point at which the remaining whites in any organization see which way the wind is blowing and decide to get the hell out. Why would you want to be, say, a manager in a company full of barely literate, hostile, lazy half-wits that cannot be fired, disciplined or even reprimanded to matter what they do (or don’t do…)? In a previous life I worked for the govt of the state of Florida and even then I could understand the feeling of just gradually giving up due the realization that no matter what I tried to do I was fighting against the tide. At a certain point, “go along to get along” takes over everyone.

    • mikejones91

      Keyword HOSTILE. That word says it all. I worked in fast food as a teen and let me tell you, you CANNOT fire a black man/woman without the “typical” racial grievances/animus being thrown at you. That is a problem that WILL NEVER go away. Why accept equality when being a “victim” is engraved in their culture? Rap/Hip-Hop–Young black men who “rose above” in this presumably racist America. To admit equality would equate to A LOT of explaining to do. High crime rates, ect. ect. Being the victim is too convenient  Its like when you are a child and you get sick and your mom makes you stay home from school. She calls out of work and you guys hang out for the day. Your taken care of. Your mother knows your not feeling well so she helps you and expects less. You sit on the couch and wait for soup while watching TV. Being a victim is great.

  • JohnEngelman

    In the nineteenth century government jobs were often handed out as political favors. The Civil Service system was designed to assure that those who worked for the government were qualified. What happened? 

  • saxonsun

    When I see whites in civil service jobs, I’m shocked. That’s how scarce our representation is. The state has sent out people to help with a new energy plan here in NYC. Three blacks came to my door. Not one white person! There are some bright spots though. Our favorite supermarket has only white employees–a real blast from the past. How rare that is now.

  • http://countenance.wordpress.com/ Question Diversity

    I read this article three times, looking for what bothered me about it.  Then I finally got it:

    The homogeneity, interviews with dozens of current and former Metro
    workers indicated, is a proxy to a clubby culture of favoritism in which
    merit has little to do with promotions, and accountability, such as
    noting safety violations, is a career death knell.

    Would DC Metro be that corrupt if the “homogeneity” were white?  They’re blaming “homogeneity” in general for the “culture of favoritism,” not the homogeneity of blacks.

  • Gen__Lee

    If you’re in Washington DC and enter or exit the Farragut West metro station via its eastern exit on weekdays around 815AM you will more than likely see an old white dude hanging out..er..working in the booth. Every day when I pass by him I’m tempted to stop and ask how he was able to land a job as one of the magical white men of DC metro.

  • brew730

    Nothing to see here folks.  Keep on moving.

  • brew730

    Does anyone have any doubt that this is what is to become of our nation when whites are in the minority???