Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton announced today that a bus strike that has disrupted service throughout the Valley will likely come to a close on Friday.
Both sides -- the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433, which represents bus drivers in Phoenix and Tempe, and Veolia Transportation, the transit company that employs the drivers -- are once again at the negotiating table trying to hammer out a contract deal for drivers.
"Late last night, they reached a handshake agreement on their contract, and we believe that bus service ... is going to be beginning again very, very soon," Stanton said during a press conference this morning. "If everything works out today it looks like service to the people of Phoenix will be provided Friday morning."
Phoenix drivers went on strike midnight on March 9, and were later joined by Tempe drivers.
But why is the week-long strike expected to end on Friday?
Perhaps because on Thursday, the Phoenix City Council is going to reconsider fines that Veolia has been whining about since even before Phoenix awarded it a more than $380 million city-bus contract.
The kick in the pants is that even though, theoretically, Phoenix has no part in the contract bargaining that has dragged on for about two years between union reps and corporate suits, they might just have the power to effectively end the strike.
All they have to do is cave to Veolia's long-standing request to pare down on the fines they are contractually obligated to pay -- the same fines that in the city-bus contract Phoenix stated would be "strictly enforced."
The matter of the fines popped up on the January 4 Phoenix council agenda, and was pushed back to January 18. That discussion, too, was postponed to the February 1 meeting. On that day, the item was withdrawn.
During that last meeting, Councilman Jim Waring kept asking why the matter was being withdrawn instead of the council taking a vote. There were no clear answers, but it was clear to City Hall insiders that the item didn't have the votes.
It was probably better to yank the item, wait until a more opportune time -- like, say, now, when workers are on strike and the city's public transit system is in turmoil -- and then bring the item back for a vote.
And that's exactly what's happening.
Stanton pushed ahead the item, now scheduled for March 21, for consideration on Thursday.