**Update 1/5/15: Union members announced they were postponing the strike in order to give negotiations one more chance.
About 650 bus drivers in Phoenix will go on strike tonight at midnight, according to local transportation union leaders.
Bob Bean, president of the local Amalgamated Transit Union chapter says the strike, which will affect 75 percent of bus routes in Phoenix, comes after weeks of failed negotiations between ATU and Transdev, the transportation company contracted by the city.
This will be the sixth transit strike in Arizona in the last five years.
Speaking at a press conference today, Bean and Michael Cornelius, lead negotiator for discussions, said Transdev is refusing to address drivers’ grievances in any meaningful way and instead is just using “boilerplate language” to gloss over “non-substantive issues.
“It’s an indication of an employer that’s not interested in bargaining,” Cornelius said. “You always hear about workers verses evil corporations – this is that situation.”
A Transdev representative could not be reached for comment.
Union leaders and Reverend Jarrett Maupin – a local civil rights leader who has been intimately involved in the negotiations – said this strike will “paralyze public transportation in Phoenix” but was entirely preventable.
(As of tonight, Maupin tells New Times that the strike "is on" because "no progress" was made during a final round of last-minute negotiations.)
“We could have avoided this situation if Transdev wasn’t running the show,” Bean said. “The idea of contracting is to save the city money, but clearly Transdev is out of control, and the city has been unable to exert the kind of necessary pressure.”
“It’s time we stop farming out transit because it’s costing tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars,” Cornelius added “They don’t want a deal; they’re just waiting for the city to kick in more money.”
Transdev, the largest transportation company in North America, has a multi-million-dollar contract with Phoenix to run 34 of the city’s 49 bus routes.
Union leaders at the press conference said the company is “leveraging the strike” to get more money from the city – a contention that could not be confirmed.
In a statement released this evening, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said he was “disappointed” to hear about the strike.
“I demand that, as long as the strike continues, both sides stay at the negotiating table and work to reach a deal. Both Transdev and ATU owe that to the thousands of residents who take these 34 bus routes to get to work, school, and doctor’s appointments every day.”
Cornelius estimated that the strike could cost the city millions of dollars, adding that even though light-rail service will not be affected, transportation to and from the College Football National Championship in Glendale next week could be impaired.
“The [bus] drivers are not to blame ...if you miss the football game, if you can’t get to the airport [or to work],” Maupin said. “You can blame Transdev."