Some good news for Metro workers today. Unionized employees are finally getting a long-negotiated 9 percent raise:

The dispute began in 2008 after Metro and the union reached an impasse on contract negotiations.

In November 2009, an arbitration board ruled on some issues for the union, but Metro appealed the decision. The case went before a federal judge, who ruled in July in favor of the union. In August, Metro’s board of directors decided not to appeal the judge’s decision.

Union and Metro officials said employees will get their retroactive pay in mid-October.

Meanwhile, the Examiner is … examining why 116 employees get take-home vehicles:

All Metro employees get free rides on the transit system, but 116 of them also get to drive agency-owned vehicles home each day.

Of those, 88 mid-level managers and superintendents in the bus, rail, track maintenance and engineering divisions drive the vehicles, according to information obtained through a public records request. The remaining 28 are assigned to Metro Transit Police.

As one would imagine, 116 people is a tiny percentage of the Metro workforce (less than 1 percent, says spokesman Dan Stessel). And even if it cost $759,000 for the agency to lease all of the cars, which it doesn’t since they own some of the vehicles, that’s still the tiniest of drops in Metro’s $1.4 billion operating budget.

It’s easy to hate on Metro—-we do it, too. But aside from the occasional pushy driver, most employees are just decent people trying to do a thankless job while being crushed by the weight of bureaucracy.

A 1993 Katherine Boo Post story “Class Wear: Pride, Prejudice and the Not-So-Subtle Politics of the Working-Class Uniform” serves as a wry reminder of what it was once like working for Metro:

…across the spectrum of uniformed occupations, some uniforms — police and military garb, pilots’ gear — are far more equal than others. While UPS’s brown shirts may top uniform dealers’ list of ugliest uniforms, to service-industry cognoscenti they signify a secure job that pays real money. Ditto for the maroon cardigans of Metrobus drivers. “I’ve seen girls walk up and hand the driver their phone numbers when they’re getting off the bus,” says Killens. “That stuff never happens to me.”

Hmm—maybe we should just bring back the maroon cardigans.

Photo by Christopher Jetton via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0