Arbitrator Puts Brakes on Reinstating Operator Behind 2012 MBTA Trolley Crash
The same arbitrator that let an MBTA trolley driver blamed for a Green Line crash this month back on the job after he was first fired in 2010 recently blocked a different T operator involved in a 2012 accident from returning to work with the transit agency, according to documents obtained by Boston.
In December 2012, the T fired a Green Line driver that rear-ended a standing trolley when pulling into the Boylston Street station, injuring dozens of people and causing millions of dollars in damages to MBTA property:
After an investigation, the T determined that the driver in that accident—who they wouldn’t name—had worked an overnight shift at his second job as a Boston Housing Authority operator, before he showed up for work for the T. Officials said at the time of the accident that the driver didn’t get “sufficient rest,” and because of that 37 people were hurt in the collision.
Last week, the operator’s case went before an arbitrator in an attempt to get reinstated working with the T. But his request—backed by Carmen’s Union Local 589—was denied by the arbitrator. Under collective bargaining agreements between the union and the T, disciplined employees are entitled to an appeals process. “The MBTA had sufficient cause to discharge [the employee],” an arbitrator ruled, siding with the MBTA’s decision to terminate their relationship with the worker.
Union officials argued that the driver should be eligible for reinstatement because he had managed to hold down two jobs for six years without incident. But the arbitrator said in the assessment of the case that that was nothing more than “good luck,” according to the arbitrator’s decision.
“The fact that [he] may have avoided a tragedy for so long may be attributable to nothing more than good luck. More likely, I conclude, is that a serious incident such as occurred on November 29, 2012, was the inevitable result of [his] irresponsible work schedule and his attendant lack of sleep,” the arbitrator wrote.
In a strange coincidence, the documents showed that the arbitrator in that case was the same person that allowed another Green Line driver, Sydley Gardner, to return to work with back pay and wages after he was terminated by the MBTA for failing to report an accident involving a pedestrian in 2010. Gardner was recently fired for a second time, on March 13, 2013, after his trolley car derailed along the D Line tracks, causing it to smash into a tunnel wall and sending 10 people to the hospital with minor injuries.
As the Globe reported on March 13, just days after the accident, Local 589 representatives said if Gardner files a grievance for the latest crash, “the union will represent him as required under the union’s rules and the collective bargaining agreement it has with the MBTA.”
Grievances filed by Carmen’s Union Local 589, in an effort to get T employees that were terminated by the transit agency back on the job, have been a point of contention between union officials and the MBTA. In 2011, the Herald discovered that the T was “forced” to rehire seven drivers and other employees after “they were fired for offenses ranging from dozing at the wheel due to drug use, child rape, and assault.”
A call to the Carmen’s Union to find out if Gardner filed a grievance was not immediately returned.