East Valley Bus-Drivers Strike Nearly Averted, But Drivers Now Gear Up for Picket Lines

It appeared just moments before midnight that a bus-driver strike expected to affect thousands of Valley bus passengers had been averted.

But no go.

A last-minute deal fell through, says Bob Bean, a union leader of the Amalgamated Transit Union representing East Valley bus operators.

Nearly all union members voted down a contract proposal by First Transit, the company that operates East Valley buses.

One of the major sticking points is a management clause that would have allowed First Transit executives to have union employees fired without having to follow the existing due process.

The strike will affect the entire region since most routes overlap across cities, and even Phoenix officials were burning the midnight oil in hopes of persuading continued negotiations.

"They wanted to make everything contingent on six other items," Bean tells New Times about First Transit negotiators. "We went back and forth, back and forth and their . . . negotiator said they're reinstating the management clause."

Bean says they were talking up until a few minutes before midnight, when the strike took effect.

"There will be no bus service," Bean says, adding that he anticipates political pressure might bring ATU back to the negotiating table "late tomorrow or Friday morning."

The Reverend Jarrett Maupin, who was working behind the scenes to avert disruption of bus routes that would leave stranded many South Phoenix bus passengers, says he is extremely disappointed in First Transit for laying down a list of additional demands.

"I thought we struck a chord of fairness," he says. "We're trying to avoid a strike and prevent harm to hardworking union members and public transit users."

He says that if there isn't a quick return to hammering out a final contract, and dropping additional demands, "not only will they have to deal with transit workers on the picket line, they'll also have African Americans who are part of the ridership pciketing outside the Regional Public Transportation Authority office."

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton says that they are going to continue to work hard to make sure agreements are reached.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo