Graham Kilmer
Transportation

Bus Union Threatens Strike By October 25

Demands new contract proposal by then. Transit officials say they will meet the deadline.

By - Oct 18th, 2019 04:43 pm
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Milwaukee County Transit System bus. Photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee County Transit System bus. Photo by Dave Reid.

The union representing transit workers has set a date for the beginning of their strike, if the last contract offer from the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) does not change.

Amalgamated Transit Union 998 sent a proposal to MCTS on October 9th. And union President James Macon said the transit company has two weeks from the date of the letter to respond to their contract proposal. MCTS officials plan to have a response to the union on or before that date.

The union wants movement from management on wages. Specifically, Macon said he wants drivers to see at least half the wage increase given to mechanics in the last contract offer from MCTS. If there is no movement, Macon warns that Milwaukee County residents will wake up on the morning of October 25th and find no buses running.

Despite the hardball feel of the union’s threat to strike, discussions have improved since the contract stalemate in late summer. Macon and Nate Holton, lead negotiator for MCTS and the director of diversity and inclusion, told Urban Milwaukee there has been dialogue between the two parties this month.

Macon and the ATU set the date for a strike because his membership, having voted down the contract in early September, are anxious for a resolution to the negotiations, even if that means calling a strike. “They’re tired of waiting for MCTS,” Macon said.

In August, MCTS submitted their final contract offer to the union. Roughly a month later the union voted to reject the contract. It also approved the authority to call a strike for their board. In the intervening time, the union has been preparing, getting membership “strike ready”. Union leaders have been working with members to ensure they are prepared for a work stoppage, and have a plan in place to get their message out should a strike happen.

In the final contract offer MCTS gave mechanics in the transit union a significant pay raise. The raise was intended to bring mechanic pay in line with market demand, MCTS officials said. But Macon saw it as a backdoor deal.

Holton said MCTS is analyzing the fiscal impact of the wage increases Macon has asked for and they will meet the union’s proposal deadline.

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