Abele Urges Bus Drivers to Settle Contract
Union and county transit system have been in contract fight for 18 months.
Milwaukee County and its bus drivers have been in contentious contract negotiations for more then 18 months. In an open letter sent Thursday to the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998, Abele praised bus drivers for their hard work, but stressed the county has reached a financial crisis point.
“We rely heavily on state funding for our transit system; and that funding has not kept up with our needs, especially as the cost of service increases,” Abele wrote in the letter. “State law caps our ability to collect funding from local taxes, so the County Board and I are limited in investing in the transit system at the level we deserve.”
Facing a $6.4 million budget deficit next year, Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) is preparing to reduce bus service by 10 percent in 2020. This includes freeway flyer routes, city routes and shuttles.
Richard Olson has been a bus driver for 25 years in Milwaukee. He said cutting routes will segregate the city even more.
“It makes no sense to me to cut service for kids trying to get to school and people trying to go to work,” Olson said. “People trying to better themselves? We should be doing everything we can to do better for them.”
The union and Milwaukee County have been battling over bus driver pay, health care benefits and routes. Union President James Macon said the drivers will review the county’s latest proposal next month.
Abele said the county is seeking a long-term funding solution from Madison to “do right by the drivers.”
The contract being proposed to drivers includes a 2 percent raise upon signing with another 1.1 percent raise on April 1, 2020. Employees would continue to receive cost-of-living wage adjustments, with a cap of 2.5 percent annually.
“Let us implement this contract and get employees the raises they deserve, so that we can start working together to find a long-term funding solution from the state and pave a new road for our future,” Abele said.
“We know that it’s not just large cities that are facing funding challenges, but our rural communities too, so we hope that our Republican in the Legislature will join us in funding our local governments fairly,” Baldauff said.
A report last fall on Wisconsin’s public transportation systems found inadequate funding has prevented many communities from expanding service.
Representatives from the Wisconsin GOP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Abele could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Listen to the WPR report here.
Milwaukee County Executive Calls For Unity Among Bus Drivers In Fight For State Funding was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
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- Abele Urges Bus Drivers to Settle Contract - Corri Hess - Aug 30th, 2019
- An Open Letter From County Executive Chris Abele to ATU Leadership - County Executive Chris Abele - Aug 29th, 2019
- ATU Local 998 Challenges MCTS 2020 ‘Budget Hole’ Projection - Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 - Aug 29th, 2019
- Way To Go, County Board! - Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 - Jul 11th, 2019
- MKE County: Abele’s Power Over County Transit Targeted - Graham Kilmer - Jul 11th, 2019
- Transportation: Group Pushes Higher Wheel Tax for Transit - Ana Martinez-Ortiz - May 23rd, 2019
- MKE County: Transit System Plans 10% Service Cut - Graham Kilmer - May 8th, 2019
Read more about 2020 MCTS Budget here