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.
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