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Stacy Winsett – RATP Dev USA

Transit HR leader says company rolls with unions at the wheel

The wheels on the bus may go round and round, but it takes qualified operators to steer them in the right direction while ensuring passengers have a safe, comfortable and dependable ride.

While Stacy Winsett doesn’t sing that children’s song as part of her work, the latter part of the sentence is something she emphasizes as Chief People Officer for RATP Dev USA.

Stacy Winsett | Chief People Officer | RATP Dev USA

Stacy Winsett | Chief People Officer | RATP Dev USA

Winsett, who in her career has led HR departments for more than 20 years for companies with workforces ranging from 2,000 to 16,000, now guides HR for a company that operates public transportation systems throughout the U.S. with a dispersed workforce of 4,000 that is 85 percent unionized.

Those transit systems include buses, streetcars, and paratransit systems that enable riders with mobility issues and other disabilities to get to needed medical care and other essential services.

“I’m a servant leader,” Winsett says. “It’s important to make a difference and add value to the organization. My passion is people—positive employee and labor relations are essential.”

Getting people there

RATP Dev USA is part of the larger RATP Dev, founded in Paris in about 1900 and operated the first line of the Paris Metro as it opened for the Paris World Fair. RATP Dev operates public transportation systems in 15 countries, serving 1.5 billion passengers annually.

In the U.S., RATP Dev USA operates public transportation and paratransit systems for more than 37 municipalities and counties in 16 states and Washington, D.C., including streetcars in Tucson, Arizona, fixed route and paratransit operations for the Greensboro Transit Authority in North Carolina, CT Transit in Connecticut and the Yuma County Area Transit bus system in Arizona.

“We’re all about moving people,” Winsett says. “We get people where they need to go every day.”

Winsett, a union member when she started working at American Airlines in the late 1980s, has negotiated more than 100 collective bargaining agreements with more than 25 different unions during her career. She currently works with the Amalgamated Transit Union, Teamsters, Transport Workers Union and Office and Professional Employees International Union.

Her commitment to good employee and labor relations was evident in the summer of 2022 when more than 150 ATU Local 689 drivers for the Washington, D.C.-area transit system went on strike.

Stacy Winsett | Chief People Officer | RATP Dev USA

The walkout occurred about three months after Winsett joined RATP Dev USA, and she says she immediately began back-channel efforts to meet with union leaders. The strike lasted three days, and she and her team negotiated until 4 a.m. to reach a new contract with wage increases and improved health care and retirement benefits, which was quickly ratified.

“We needed to find the value in the relationship—nothing good happens when there are strikes,” Winsett says. “Once we were able to understand each other’s needs, we could narrow to what is important.”

Working together

This understanding is the basis for the new “Strike to Strength” initiative. By joining with union leaders to find common ground, Winsett says the company can reinforce mutually beneficial relationships while being open about the disagreements that develop.

For instance, RATP Dev USA works with the unions in Washington, D.C., on implementing an apprenticeship program to help combat the high turnover rates inherent in the industry.

Winsett says the bus operators are all too often unrecognized or undervalued. They need commercial driver’s licenses to operate buses and navigate crowded streets while dealing with other impatient drivers, and they and their passengers can face hazardous situations sometimes caused by people they encounter on their routes.

“We want to position our employees as something special—to be proud of what they do daily,” she says. “When we communicate, we eliminate a majority of conflict and create an atmosphere of trust and engagement for our people.”

Safety is a joint effort

Her strike resolution efforts also opened doors with union representatives beyond Washington, D.C. Winsett has met with national union leaders to get to know them as much as possible and to work out any issues that arise.

Stacy Winsett | Chief People Officer | RATP Dev USA

Winsett’s team and the regional leadership teams partnered on what she calls an engagement playbook to reduce employee turnover and drive a safety culture. They have collaborated on training programs for managers to foster improved working relationships, build empathy and foster engagement and accountability.

The efforts to improve safety aren’t always for the faint of heart but have produced positive results that she says are appreciated by employees.

The team created an audio-visual presentation showing real examples of the failures of operators to follow the properly secure passengers, which led to injuries. Winsett says the total effect is moving, and the approach helps to emphasize the gravity of the situation.

Diverse perspectives

Winsett grew up in Texas humbly, which served as a strong motivation for her. She entered college at 16 and earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from LeTourneau University in 1996.

After serving in various roles in operations at American Airlines, she began working in HR as an arbitration and employee relations generalist in April 2001. While at American Airlines, she earned her master’s degree in dispute resolution from Southern Methodist University.

She had risen to the role of manager for HR operations support when she joined Air Distribution Technologies Inc. as director of HR in November 2009 and was vice president of HR Americas for its sister company, Gates Corp.

Stacy Winsett | Chief People Officer | RATP Dev USA

Beginning in January 2014, Winsett led HR for various operations owned by Orica, a global mining company. Before joining RATP Dev USA, she was vice president of HR at Herc Rentals and global vice president of HR for Trillium Flow Technologies.

“I bring quite a bit of diversity to HR from an industry and experience perspective,” Winsett says. “As a servant leader, I focus on bringing out the best in people. It brings me great joy to see one of our teammates succeed. We’re building something very special at RATP Dev USA, and people are truly at the heart of all we do.”

View this feature in the Vol. V 2023 Edition here.

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