How Neutral Third-Party Intervention Can Improve Retention in the Transit Industry

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How Neutral Third-Party Intervention Can Improve Retention in the Transit Industry


Although culture change has been mentioned in transit workforce literature for decades, the ability to implement that change has remained elusive. The Covid pandemic has pulled back the curtain to reveal the impacts of dysfunctional culture and the physical and psychological toll of many transit occupations. Addressing dignity in the workplace may be the missing element in the search for workforce retention tools. Instituting a conflict resolution system that recognizes and honors the individual’s dignity and agency will improve employee retention, performance, and customer service in the transit industry. The way to improve hiring and retention at transit agencies and other companies is to provide an organizational culture that respects each person’s dignity, identity, and opinions. A commitment to changing the organizational culture is a prerequisite for creating a workplace that values the dignity of all. The study suggests transformative mediation is the right tool to accomplish these objectives. 



Ed Watt is currently the Principal of WattADR, an alternative dispute resolution practice. He is a member of several mediation and arbitration panels. Mr. Watt has spent most of his career in organized labor. In that capacity, he has served on many boards and labor management committees as well as federal, state, local, and international bodies, including the USDOT Transit Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS), American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Transportation Research Board (TRB), the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), and the International Labor Organization (ILO). Understanding the critical role research plays in safety and union-management relations, Mr. Watt has facilitated research with TRB, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP), and Cornell University’s Institute for Workplace Studies. He holds a Master of Science degree in Industrial and Labor Relations (MSILR) from Baruch/Cornell and is a Mineta Transportation Institute Consulting Associate.

March 2023



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