Phoenix Bus Union Calls for a Strike Starting at Midnight
The Amalgamated Transit Union just called for a bus strike -- a call that comes after nearly two years of Phoenix bus drivers transporting about 71,289 passengers daily without a contract.
Veolia Transportation, the French-based company that nabbed a $388 million contract to operate city buses, has not reached any contract agreement with union leaders representing about 640 Phoenix bus drivers.
According to the transit company's city contract, it must provide at least 60 percent of schedule service in the event of a strike.
Val Michael, the director of corporate communications for Veolia, tells New Times: "We'll be prepared."
Michael Cornelius, vice president of ATU Local 1433, says that their goal is to resolve things as quickly as possible.
"We can't allow our members to be victimized," he said. "We're going up on two years without a contract. We've honored our commitment to the community that we would only strike as a last resort."
He says they are out of options.
Part of the problem is that corporate representatives for the transit company have been engaging in unfair labor practices, union reps say.
And the National Labor Relations Board, a federal body that oversees labor negotiations, has substantiated the union's complaints.
For example, at one point, while Veolia was steeped in negotiations with union reps, corporate officials were undercutting those talks and negotiating directly with individual employees, offering some of them buy-out packages to lower their overall contract costs.
Federal laws prohibit those types of tactics.
Phoenix officials tried unsuccessfully to intervene by bringing in Honorable Ruth V. McGregor, former Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, to serve as a third-party mediator.
It's safe to say that -- with warning announcements being piped in on city buses -- mediation efforts were unfruitful.
"Our members have continued to show up to work every day because they know the people of Phoenix and Tempe need to get to work too," said Bob Bean, president of ATU Local 1433 in a statement issued late Friday. "We've been trying to negotiate with Veolia for a long time in both cities - long after expiration."
Bean said that he hopes that legal action being taken by the feds against Veolia will "end Veolia's [unfair] conduct."
Veolia executives on March 6 asked for those legal proceeding to be delayed. Their request was denied, in part, because of "the number and severity of the alleged unfair labor practices in this case, as well as the fact that [Veolia] has failed to comply with a prior Board Settlement Agreement, makes plain that a postponement of the trial in this case is not warranted," according to NLRB records.
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