More than half of the current employees of Mobile’s transit system have signed a petition showing “no confidence” in the organization’s general manager.
More than 50 members of a local advocacy group representing Wave transit employees signed a petition complaining about GM Damon Dash’s management style. Group president Antonie Maiben has emailed copies of the petition to the offices of members of the Mobile City Council and Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
In the letter addressed to Stimpson on Tuesday, Feb. 4, Maiben wrote he was hoping to discuss the issues with a third party since his attempts to resolve the issues had been unsuccessful to this point.
“The members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 770 [are] filing a petition of no confidence with your office regarding ongoing issues at the Wave Transit with the General Manager, Damon D. Dash,” the letter states. “These charges range from the demeaning acts bestowed on employees to the incompetence of the general manager.”
A total of 56 members have signed the petition sent to Stimpson’s office. Maiben said the petition represents more than half of all Wave employees. Wave currently has 101 active employees, he said.
In a phone interview with Lagniappe, Maiben said the union is hopeful for resolution through the city government because they have few other options.
“People are not happy,” he said. “They feel like they have nowhere to go.”
Kendra Evans, a current dispatcher for Wave, said problems for her began after a “random check” through Wave’s third-party system revealed, incorrectly, her commercial driver’s license was expired. She was fired, but brought back after Maiben emailed Wave’s director of operations a printout of her up-to-date paperwork from the local license office. After that issue, she said Dash began to nitpick — despite her good work ethic — in an attempt to get her to resign. Evans said she was unfairly disciplined for another issue, while a male co-worker did not suffer any punishment.
“Morale is at an all-time low,” she said.
It’s low morale Evans and former employee Lamar Howard cited as issues with Wave’s annual Senior Bowl shuttle service. Evans said bus drivers normally volunteer to work extra shifts on that day, but many refused this year. The service usually has 10 to 15 buses running between Hank Aaron Stadium and Ladd-Peebles Stadium, but only had eight this year, Maiben said. Some of those drivers did not have seniority, Maiben said, and had to work an extra shift. The poor service resulted in hour-and-a-half wait times for fans trying to leave the game, he said. A supervisor actually drove buses that day because drivers declined to work, Maiben said.
Dash even exploited a previous incident between Evans and another female employee in the hopes they would fight and he could fire one or both of them, she claimed. Evans told Lagniappe Dash made a comment it “would solve one of my problems.”
Working conditions, in general, have deteriorated since Dash took over, she said. Dash has “no regard for anyone,” Evans said.
“He talks to you how he wants to,” she said. “You’re supposed to just let him do it and not stand up for yourself in any way.”
Douglas Poe, former Wave maintenance director, was laid off in March of last year after more than 22 years with the system. While Poe believes the decision to let him go was a “budget issue,” he called Dash a “tough person to reason with.” He also doesn’t understand why he wasn’t hired back when he applied for one of two open mechanic jobs. The two mechanic jobs, he said, were paid as much together as he made as a supervisor. He was later told there was a “hiring freeze.”
“I believe [Dash] came in and made a lot of changes,” Poe said. “Not all changes are good, though.”
More curious to Poe, he said, two weeks after he was laid off Wave lost a mechanic. He applied, but didn’t get the job.
“I put in for the position and all of a sudden it was rescinded,” he said.
Howard said he was let go after 17 years on the job and no discipline problems.
“After 17 years and no discipline problems, he let me go just like that,” he said.
Howard, Maiben and Evans all told Lagniappe Dash regularly threatens employees’ jobs by telling them if they complained they could “get a box.”
Dash did not respond to an email or a phone call asking for comment on this story.
First Transit, the company managing Wave through a contract with the city, said in a statement from Regional Vice President Jarod Varner the issues would be looked into.
“Any concerns from our employees are very important to us; therefore, all employment concerns are taken seriously and addressed quickly,” the statement read. “We ask that if employees do have concerns, to follow the grievance process as outlined by their collective bargaining agreement.”
When asked for comment, the city directed Lagniappe to the First Transit statement and offered no additional comment.
As for the statement itself, Maiben said the issue isn’t a grievance issue involving the collective bargaining agreement, but is, instead, about “mistreatment” of employees.
Maiben said he and others plan to present their concerns to the Mobile City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
“We’re not doing this because it’s a union issue,” Maiben said. “We are doing this because we are human beings and we cannot allow people to do us this way.”
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