Transit workers picket in Lynnwood

  • By Oscar Halpert Enterprise editor
  • Tuesday, December 2, 2008 5:37pm


Members of the union representing more than 400 bus drivers and other Community Transit workers picketed the Lynnwood Transit Center Tuesday, Dec.2, protesting what they claim is an unwillingness by the transit agency to bargain in good faith.

Bus drivers, as well as dispatchers, security officers, maintenance workers and call center employees, are represented by local 1576 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

The union in October and November filed Unfair Labor Practices complaints with the Public Employment Relations Commission, the state agency that resolves labor disputes between public employees and their employers.

Kathleen Custer, president of the local, said Community Transit broke off mediated negotiations Sept. 29 for a new contract after months of negotiations failed to lead to an agreement.

The union’s most recent contract expired Dec. 31, 2007.

“Much to our surprise, as well as the mediator’s surprise, Community Transit informed us they were no longer going to negotiate,” Custer said.

Community Transit offered a 3 percent wage increase and continuation of medical benefits but Custer said the union objected to the agency’s insistence on changes to working condition details such as sick leave and breaks for drivers.

“Community Transit wants to insist that some of their leaves will not be excused and, therefore, will result in our members’ being terminated for legitimate and often serious illnesses,” she said. “This deviates so dramatically from the policies we now have.”

Custer said bus drivers also routinely work 13 to 16 hours straight without breaks.

Tom Pearce, spokeseman for Community Transit, said it was the mediator, not Community Transit, who “declared an impasse” in negotiations on Sept. 29.

“The union came to us with 220 proposals in a mature contract and there’s 83 items the mediator was negotiating,” he said. “Normally, there’s 10 or less.”

In a complaint filed Oct. 17, the union alleged that Community Transit had proposed that it agree to have employees contribute a share of the cost of medical benefits. In another counter-proposal, Community Transit offered to pay 100 percent of medical benefit costs if the union agreed to a new way of administering time off.

Hearings on that complaint will be held at Community Transit offices in Everett at 9 a.m. Dec. 10 and 11.

After several rounds of proposals and counter proposals, negotiations were called off.

“Our agency and leadership, they have the highest respect for the union and their people,” Pearce said. “They’re professionals and we know they’re going to continue to do their best for the public and the agency.”

In 2007, the union filed an Unfair Labor Practices complaint, alleging that the transit agency “skimmed” opeartions training work previously handled by a union-represented employee to a non-union worker and refused to bargain, according to agency documents.

The commission ruled that Community Transit did not refuse to bargain with the union when it had another employee do the training work.

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