Seven MBTA Union Members Arrested at ‘Money Room’ Protest

The MBTA's oversight board voted to sign a contract with the private security firm Brink's on Thursday.

money room

MBTA Transit Police gathered outside the money room where MBTA union officials were arrested early Thursday morning. Andy Metzger/SHNS

Update, 2 p.m.: The MBTA’s fiscal and management control board has voted 4-0 to approve a contract with Brink’s, a security company based in Virginia, a move that has faced intense backlash from union leadership but which the T argues will save money and bring new oversight to the agency’s cash-handling operation. One board member, Brian Lang, says he would have voted against the deal, but was not in attendance at the meeting, according to the State House News Service.

Earlier: Efforts to privatize the MBTA’s “money room”—which are set to move forward today when a T board will be asked to sign a contract with Virginia company Brink’s—were met with protest Thursday.

Members of the union representing most of the MBTA locked gates shut at the cash-counting facility in Charlestown. Seven were arrested, among them the head of the Boston Carmen’s Union James O’Brien, for blocking vehicles from entering or leaving the site, the State House News Service reports.

A picket line at the site early Thursday involved as many as 150 people, the Globe reports.

“We never wanted it to come to this, we have tried for months to convince the MBTA to join us for constructive negotiations at the bargaining table. But under the leadership of Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack the MBTA has repeatedly used misleading or incomplete financial projections to pursue privatization of the MBTA’s Money Room at all costs,” O’Brien says in a statement. “We cannot stand by while they privatize our public transportation system and turn the keys over to a private company seeking to profit from our riders’ fares and the public’s tax dollars.” 

The agency’s cash-counting operation is the first to face privatization following the formation of Gov. Charlie Baker’s fiscal and management control board for the T. It is also the first to come after the Legislature voted to suspend the so-called Pacheco Law that limited the state’s ability to shift public responsibilities to private companies. T officials believe privatizing the money room could save $8.6 million the first year.

It hasn’t been a good year for the money room. An audit and slew of reports from state officials paint a picture of a mismanaged department that has cost too much money and had a questionable work environment.

O’Brien has called for the release of the T’s audit, which it has not done. The review was the source of at least one debunked finding: That money room employees had cut “sunroofs” into its armored vehicles.