Future Local 689 president Golash and first woman officer Perrin: 1998
Michael “Mike” Golash, president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 for about four and one-half years 2001-2005, is shown with Sandra Meeks Perrin, the first woman elected to the local union’s executive board.
The photograph is undated, but it is probably at the international union’s Chicago convention in 1998. Golash is wearing a convention badge.
Golash was a former national committee member of the Students for Democratic Society (SDS), a left-wing student group, during the late 1960s. He graduated from Columbia University in New York.
He became a leader of the Progressive Labor Party, a communist organization that broke away from the Communist Party USA in the early 1960s.
Golash was hired as a bus operator for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, also known as Metro) in 1976 working at the Northern Division on 14th Street NW.
He was a leader of the seven-day wildcat strike by members of Local 689 over the payment of a cost-of-living increase during the arbitration proceedings of a new labor agreement. The old contract had language saying that all conditions remain “undisturbed” during arbitration proceedings.
The union leadership had previously failed to fight for payment of the COLA in 1976 and the payment was lost.
During a meeting of the strikers at an RFK Stadium parking lot that was captured by local news television cameras, Golash urged members to continue the strike shouting, “Strike, Strike, Strike!”
The strike was successful in obtaining a court order to arbitrate the issue expeditiously and ordering Metro to put the disputed money in escrow. The expedited arbitration ordered payment of the disputed monies vindicating the strikers and casting the union leadership in a bad light.
However Golash and eight others were fired for their roles in the strike, although all who filed grievances were reinstated with lengthy suspensions without pay.
Golash continued his activism in the union and formed the Metro Committee Against Racism, a caucus within the union that advocated for more militant resistance to WMATA management often extreme discipline and regressive contract proposals. The group also advocated against white supremacy, imperialist war and for other social justice causes.
Golash was particularly outspoken in his criticism of union leadership over the utilization of the strike as a weapon, advocating preparing for and carrying out strikes to blunt Metro’s and area political leaders’ attacks on the union.
He also promoted rolling back wage progression concessions that were made in many contracts beginning in 1974 when a one-year wage progression was extended to three years. It would ultimately be extended to seven years with a further 15 year step increase of a half-percent per year that was called longevity.
Golash ran for unsuccessfully for president of the union in each election thereafter until deciding to run for shop steward at Northern Division in December 1997. He prevailed in that election.
When Craig Simpson decided not to run for re-election for the position of financial secretary-treasurer in December 2000, Golash ran and won.
In the 2000 election a rank-and-file worker, Charles Hicks, defeated incumbent president James W. Allen Jr. by a narrow margin. The ATU International later overturned the election and ordered a new election. Allen by then had retired.
Hicks negotiated a fairly strong labor contract, but his administration was plagued by inexperience.
Golash decided to seek the presidency again and defeated Hicks to finish out his term. Golash was re-elected to president in 2003.
Despite his advocacy of the strike as a weapon, Golash never called a job action during his time in office, opting instead to negotiate a one-year agreement to buy time.
He negotiated another agreement that followed the one-year contract, but it was voted down by the members and the labor agreement went to arbitration.
When the arbitration panel issued an award that essentially mirrored the contract that the rank-and-file had voted down, many union members blamed Golash.
During his term he successfully improved the wage progression and he also led the successful drive to unionize the District of Columbia’s Circulator bus during his tenure in office.
He was defeated by Jackie Jeter, the first woman president of Local 689 in the December 2006 election who had served as financial secretary-treasurer under him.
Golash returned to operating the bus following his defeat and ran for president unsuccessfully one more time before retiring.
He has remained active in the union, attending most union meetings, picket lines, public hearings and strike lines. He was also an active participant in the Occupy D.C. movement.
Sandra Perrin was hired in Metro’s payroll department and was appointed shop steward in 1982. She was elected shop steward/executive board member in 1983 becoming the first woman office of the local union.
She later transferred to the maintenance and construction seniority unit as a stock clerk a won election as a shop steward/executive board member from maintenance in December 1997.
She ran for recording secretary, one of the top three local union positions in 2000, but was defeated by Bernice Barnes who became the first woman elected full-time officer of local 689.
For a blog post on the turmoil in the D.C. transit union from 1974-80, see washingtonareaspark.com/2020/03/16/george-davis-and-the-t...
For more information and related images, see flic.kr/s/aHsmLRWRyd
The photographer is unknown. The image was donated by Craig Simpson