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May 21, 2002

LAS VEGAS BUS STRIKE--DAY TWO

 

How Long Can Each Side Last in Bus Strike?

(May 21) -- CAT bus drivers are in the second day of their strike, creating havoc for commuters. How long can both sides hold out before negotiating starts again?

Both sides say that they will work under these striking conditions for as long as they have to. But it really comes down to how much money it will cost each side before this strike is called off.

"We got the beef ribs, pork ribs, hamburgers and chicken also. And potato salad, the side with chips," said a striking bus driver.

There may be a party atmosphere now, but this is only day two of the bus driver strike. The hundreds of union members who operate the CAT buses say they're in it for the long haul.

"Truthfully, I can't afford to do it at all. But I have to do whatever it takes," said Pamela Browning, an on-strike bus driver.

Browning has worked for ATC Vancom for the last 10 years and loves her job. But she can't afford to pay for a family health plan that the company is proposing, which would cost her $95 a month. If she and her union members stay on strike for a week, they can get about $150 of union pay.

ATC Vancom says that 60 percent of its routes are running, but passengers are still waiting about an hour for their ride. The Regional Transportation Commission fines ATC Vancom $300 every time a bus run is at least 10 minutes late and $500 if it's 20 minutes late. ATC Vancom and the RTC say they haven't calculated how much it's costing the company each day they accumulate fines and pay for out-of-state ATC replacement bus drivers.

"It's obviously an expensive endeavor, and we're hoping to get this over with as quickly as we can get there," said Valerie Michael, ATC Vancom spokesperson.

Browning said: "I think they have more to lose. They have a contract to lose with RTC. They're spending more money than they should be spending in the next two days. That money could've went to us, and we wouldn't be out here."

 

 

May 23, 2002

Rules aimed at shielding strikers

By Launce Rake
Officials for the union representing striking bus drivers said Wednesday that new ground rules should help prevent incidents where pickets have been hit by buses.

Pickets have dogged replacement workers and those ignoring the strike at several locations, including two yards used to park and repair buses. About 700 members of Amalgamated Transit Local 1637 walked off the job early Monday morning.

The members work for ATC, a company contracted to operate the Citizens Area Transit system by the Regional Transportation Commission. The bus system ordinarily serves about 150,000 people daily throughout Clark County.

Since the strike, more than a dozen routes are simply not running. Other bus routes are running minutes or hours late.

On Monday and Tuesday, union members said about a dozen pickets were hit by buses. Two people were hurt, neither seriously, and one picket was ticketed for blocking traffic.

ATU local President Frank Opdyke said the new rules were worked out Wednesday with the participation of Metro Police and ATC supervisors. They will govern the pickets at the exits from a bus park-and-repair site in Las Vegas and a busy turnaround near the south end of the Strip.

"We set up an agreement," said Opdyke. "We would get two minutes to walk across the bus exit. After the two minutes, we would clear the bus exits like the Red Sea."

"It's about safety," he said.

Opdyke said he knew of no one getting bumped with a bus Wednesday.

Metro Police spokesman Tirso Dominguez said his department's role was simply to mediate a meeting between ATC and the union.

"The agreement they came upon was between the union and the management," he said.

ATC spokeswoman Val Michael confirmed the agreement at the bus yard at Tompkins Avenue and Industrial Road, but said she has not seen the union picketers honoring the arrangement.

"From what I've observed at other sites, they're not observing it anywhere," Michael said.

Observers from the RTC and local police departments said they will continue to monitor the situation at picketing locations and on bus routes.

RTC spokeswoman Ingrid Reisman said her agency is in close contact with law enforcement.

"There's always a concern for the safety of passengers, whether there's a strike or not," Reisman said.

She said no incidents over the last three days appeared to affect passengers on the buses and passengers can ride the buses with confidence, although they might have to wait a while at the bus stop.

"We haven't seen anything that would tell us we need to look again at passenger safety, and I don't really foresee that changing," she said. "The bus drivers carry these passengers, know these passengers.

"I don't think that because they are striking they would disregard passenger safety," Reisman said.

Las Vegas Valley police said they also will continue to monitor developments at the picketing sites to protect property and the rights of both strikers and the ATC.

Opdyke gave good marks to Metro Police at the bus yard at Tompkins Avenue and Industrial Road and a turnaround for buses on Gilespie Street and Sunset Road, but said the North Las Vegas Police presence was excessive at the Simmons Street and Cheyenne Avenue yard.

"I was appalled by the show of police force up there," Opdyke said. "We don't have that show of force at Gilespie. ... It was like it was an insurrection."

He said there were "no arrests, no harassment, no foul play" to ATC replacement drivers or to the buses.

While one picket received a ticket for blocking traffic, Opdyke said the union would contest the ticket in court.

North Las Vegas Police Lt. Art Redcay said his department's presence is not designed to aid one side of the strike over the other.

May 24, 2002

Striking bus drivers may not be rehired

Company claims pickets have broken law by impeding buses

By Launce Rake
The company operating the local bus service said Thursday that it would not hire back striking bus drivers who broke state picketing laws, potentially barring hundreds of the strikers from returning to work.

ATC spokeswoman Val Michael said the company welcomes striking drivers back to work -- but only "as long as they haven't done anything illegal."

Hundreds of strikers have carried picket signs in front of buses, technically breaking a Nevada statute that outlaws an attempt "to delay, impede or interfere with the ability of persons or vehicles to enter or leave" a property.

Striking bus drivers have slowed the exits of Citizens Area Transit buses from yards controlled by ATC, the company under contract with the Regional Transportation Commission to service 51 routes, about 300 buses and, at least before the strike, 150,000 daily riders.

Both company management and union members have filmed the pickets and replacement drivers. Michael said the filming, which includes the use of disposable cameras, could be used as evidence that a picket had broken the state law.

An attorney for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1637 said the company threat would not stand.

"They can take that position," Dennis Kist said. But to actually bar somebody from the job, "it has to rise to a higher level than that. You have to engage in what they call picket line misconduct, which usually involves violence of some sort."

Kist said the Nevada statute, enacted after a contentious 1984 Culinary Union strike, could be overturned by federal labor law.

"In my opinion it's not a constitutional law in most respects anyway," Kist said, because it limits free speech and the right of assembly.

Kist said the ability of striking workers to get their jobs back could well depend on which side ultimately wins the labor battle. If the issue ends in a draw or the union wins significant concessions from the company, the strikers are usually offered amnesty.

He said companies that win strikes have aggressively replaced striking union members with permanent substitutes when they can.

The RTC has not been directly involved in the strike or in the contract negotiations that started eight months ago, and would not become involved if the company bars any driver returning to work, RTC spokeswoman Heather Curry said.

"That's an ATC hiring and firing issue," she said.

About 700 union drivers walked out early Monday morning, and many of the drivers are picketing in front of two park-and-repair yards and two busy turnaround points for the buses -- the Downtown Transportation Center and Gilespie Street near the south end of the Strip.

Michael with ATC said the company has started advertising for replacement drivers, although some replacements have come in from other ATC operations out of state. Supervisors and bus-driver trainers also are driving buses.

The walkout Monday morning sent ATC and the RTC scrambling to fill routes. Curry said that as of Thursday, about 70 percent of its routes are covered, although many routes are running late.

The RTC reported that one dozen routes were not receiving any service on Thursday, an improvement of one route over the day before. As it has all week, the agency asks would-be bus riders to call 228-7433 or check the Internet at www.rtc.co.clark.nv.us/cat.htm for updates.

 

 

May 24, 2002

LAS VEGAS BUS STRIKE CONTINUES


CAT Bus Drivers Strike Continues

(May 24) -- A judge ruled Friday that striking bus drivers must clear the way clear the way for incoming and outgoing buses, and also not harass or intimidate non-striking employees. The judge made that ruling after the company that operates the valley's public transit system filed for a temporary restraining order against the drivers.

There is still no agreement between striking CAT bus drivers and their employer, ATC. Now riders say that in addition to many bus routes being cancelled, many replacement drivers don't know where they're going.

While the strikers continue to walk the picket line on day four, some CAT bus riders say they may be better off walking until the out-of-town replacement drivers are broken in.

"It takes a good three to four months easily," says James Nelson.

He's on strike now, but James Nelson has been driving CAT buses for 5 months. Nelson says it's got to be tough for replacement drivers, because it takes a while to really know the routes.

"If you are distracted with a passenger, and they are asking you a question, you can easily miss your turn. I've had it happen to me," says Nelson.

The driver of one bus chose not to go on strike, he's a regular CAT bus driver. But many of his passengers say he knows where he's going and they can't say that about many of the replacement drivers.

"They are not getting to the stops on time," says Alberta Thomas. Because of the strike, CAT bus schedules are now about an hour behind. Thomas says on top of the delays, there are times when replacement drivers drive right past the bus stops.

"They holler at the bus driver, 'You Missed My Stop!' and then he kind of slows down and then lets them off," says Thomas.

"Well they don't really say anything they have attitudes," says Dana Twilligear. Twilligear says because drivers are unfamiliar with the routes, it's hard to schedule her day.

"Like if I ask them how long or how long or where is or where can I transfer, they don't know too well," says Twilligear.

"Anybody driving in a new city is going to have some problems finding their direction," says Valerie Michael with ATC.

ATC says the replacements are getting more familiar with the routes as the days go by, and in the meantime they are looking to permanently fill the driver positions.

But until that happens, riders say they just want to get off at the right stop.

ATC has already began advertising to fill the CAT bus driver positions, and while there has still been no agreement made on a new contract, ATC is welcoming the strikers to come back to work.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002
 

CAT drivers to vote on tentative pact

Contract proposal would provide raises of 2 percent every six months through 2005

The union representing Citizens Area Transit drivers and the company that operates the valley's bus system reached a tentative agreement Tuesday that could send drivers back to work tonight.

During a bargaining session that stretched from 7 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Tuesday, the first since drivers walked off the job May 20, the parties worked out a contract proposal the union will present to its members today.

"Our goal was not to strike but to get a fair contract for our bus drivers and mechanics," said Frank Opdyke, president of Local 1637 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

ATC Vancom officials said the latest offer is fair. Union officials, however, declined to comment on the proposal, saying they would leave it up to their membership to decide.

"It's is all up to the membership if they want to accept this," said union negotiator Steve Mora.

The proposal reflects compromises on several issues, including the length of the contract, that have proven to be sticking points during negotiations that have dragged on for more than six months.

The tentative agreement would run through Sept. 15, 2005, and provide raises of 2 percent every six months, with a 2.5 percent raise on the last day of the contract.

Previously, the company offered a six-year deal with annual raises of between 3 and 10 percent, while the union asked for a two-year proposal with 7 percent pay increases each year plus cost-of-living raises.

The parties also appeared to compromise on the issue of health care premiums.

The union had asked the company to continue paying health care premiums in its last offer, while the company had proposed any increases be split evenly between the company and employee in 2004 and beyond.

The tentative agreement would require drivers to contribute to their own health care premiums, but the amount would be capped. A driver with family coverage would pay no more than an additional $50 a month for insurance.

The tentative agreement would give drivers two paid holidays for the first time, Christmas and New Year's Day. Drivers working on those holidays would receive time and a half and an additional day of vacation.

Union members will vote on the proposal today between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

If the contract is ratified, drivers would return to work for their next regularly scheduled shift, Opdyke said.

Drivers said they were eager to get back to work. But most declined to say whether they would vote to ratify the contract, indicating they would have to give the offer careful consideration before making a decision.

"I've got to sit down and figure it out," said Sandra Perish, who was one of several pickets at the Simmons bus yard Tuesday afternoon. "I love my job, but when it comes to money I have to hold my ground.

"I've got my sleeping bag and my toothpaste. I'm not leaving here until this is settled."

Beleaguered bus riders hoped a tentative agreement meant bus drivers would soon be back on the job and service would return to normal.

Thousands of riders have either struggled with intermittent bus service or found other ways to travel during the strike. About 4 percent of valley residents use public transit to get to work, according to the latest census.

"That would be good because I could get my daughter to school on time," said Diane Gayles as she waited for a bus at the Downtown Transportation Center Tuesday morning. "I got up at 4 a.m. and still didn't get her there on time today. It's unfair to the public."

ATC Vancom spokeswoman Valerie Michael said more than 80 percent of buses were on the road Tuesday and about the same amount would be in operation today. Union officials have disputed the level of service the company has reported throughout the strike.

Until Monday's negotiations, the strike appeared to grow more contentious. On Friday the company hauled the union into court before reaching an agreement on a temporary restraining order governing pickets. And on Sunday Opdyke was cited for misdemeanor battery against a company supervisor after a shoving match at a bus transfer station.

Both sides, however, face mounting financial pressure to reach an agreement. Drivers, who were mailed their last paychecks on Friday, will soon start drawing strike pay of about $100 a week. And the Regional Transportation Commission has promised to impose sanctions against ATC Vancom for late and missed bus runs.

Transportation Commission Vice President Bryan Nix said the agency's primary concern at this point is to have all its buses back on the road for the people who depend on them.

"We're looking forward to this getting resolved and getting our service up to where it's supposed to be," he said.

 

May 29, 2002

Bus drivers likely to reject deal

Union president says insurance issue is major hang-up

By Launce Rake
Hundreds of bus drivers are voting today on a contract that could bring them back to the roads of the Las Vegas Valley -- but union drivers concerned about wages and health insurance contributions could spike the proposal.

Amalgamated Transit Local 1637 President Frank Opdyke said voting was heavy since the union polls opened at 6 a.m. -- and the trend was against the proposed agreement.

"They're not supporting it," Opdyke said -- but cautioned that the final decision will not be in until the close of the union polls tonight.

The latest offer from ATC, the company that operates the bus system, would run until September 2005 and would give a 2 percent raise every six months with a 2.5 percent raise the last month of the contract. Employees would receive extra pay and time for working Christmas and New Year's Eve beginning in 2003.

Employees' contributions to the health insurance plan would be capped at $50 per family.

"The health issue seems to be the biggest one right now," Opdyke said.

The union had asked for a 7 percent raise over the next two years, no contributions to health insurance and extra pay for working holidays.

Union members voted to reject an earlier contract proposal and in a separate vote authorized a strike. Union negotiators rejected another contract offer from the bus company without a vote.

The issue of contributions to the health insurance plan was a major stumbling block in the earlier rejected offers. According to the company, the previous offer would have increased wages from 3 percent to 10 percent annually and increased employees health-plan contributions to $25 per family.Opdyke said the company used the second rejection to criticize the union, so the union is bringing this offer to the full membership. But the members are rejecting the offer, he said.

"The trend that I see here is that people look at the contract and ask: 'Why do we have to vote on this?' " Opdyke said. "But the members make up their own minds. The members make the ultimate decision."

Polling will close at 6 tonight with a result expected shortly after. The union had originally scheduled voting from 6 a.m. to noon, but Opdyke said the polls were extended to give members more time to review the proposed contract.

About 700 union bus drivers for the Citizens Area Transit system walked out nine days ago after months of talks. The strike idled some routes and delayed dozens more in the 51-route system that ordinarily carries 150,000 people a day.

The Regional Transportation Commission, the government agency with overall responsibility for running the system, contracts with ATC, an international corporation, to provide the bus service. The company independently negotiates wages, benefits and contracts with employees.

Several drivers said Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning that they will vote against the tentative deal.

"It's worse than before," one ATU driver said from the union offices on Karen Avenue.

Another driver, now making $12 an hour, said he would end up making about $14 an hour in three years -- and would end up losing pay because of the required medical contribution.

Although the union and drivers admit the lost wages hurt, union members on Wednesday vowed to stay on strike "as long as it takes."

The mood was much darker than it had been 24 hours earlier.

ATU union leaders had been upbeat about the tentative agreement, scheduling it for a vote a day after a 12-hour negotiating session ended at about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. By Tuesday afternoon, pickets had left the four locations that had been sites of sometimes acrimonious conflicts between company replacement workers and striking union members.

ATC spokeswoman Valerie Michael said the company thought it had a contract acceptable to the union.

"When they left the table last night it was my understanding that the union negotiating team was happy with the proposal," Michael said.

But "it is not a done deal," she added.

Opdyke credited Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman with invigorating a negotiating process that had completely broken down two weeks ago.

Goodman said Tuesday that he made personal appeals last week to Opdyke and David Boggs, the company's regional vice president.

Goodman urged them to resolve the matter and said it was imperative that they avert a strike.

When told the union was giving him credit for bringing the two sides together, Goodman said, "I don't know if I had any bearing whatsoever."

Bus system riders had greeted the tentative agreement with relief. Some riders found their regular 30-minute commutes have stretched into hours.

Humberto Hinojos, an assistant arcade manager at The Orleans, waited in the heat for his bus at the bus turnaround near the south end of the Strip. His commute has taken a couple of hours on occasion since the strike started.

"The regular drivers are good about the schedules," he said. "The replacements don't seem familiar with the routes."

Hinojos said he has been on buses where the replacement drivers seem to get lost. Other riders expressed similar frustrations.

"I was late to work for a week-and-a-half straight, every day," agreed Shawn Bowser, a server at Red Lobster. His managers have not docked his pay, but Bowser said he wants the regular drivers back.

"It'll be a lot better," he said. "Half the people in this town depend on the bus."

But some riders said the system is coming back, even without the union bus drivers.

Christina Jimenez, a security guard and regular passenger, said she must budget three hours to get to work and has to ask friends for rides home. But the situation has been improving, in part because more drivers are crossing the picket lines to work, she said.

"They're coming back because they can't afford it, not to work," she said.

"The first couple of days were really bad," said Ron Young, a consultant commuting from Henderson to the Strip. "I think they were caught off guard by the strike. ... It was more efficient after the first couple of days."

 

Cat Bus Drivers Continue To Strike Despite A Contract Deadline
 
(May 31) -- ATC bus drivers are still on strike, despite a four a.m. deadline to accept a deal. The striking drivers say that no one crossed the line to accept the deal. Their company, ATC Vancom, has not commented on the day's activities.

The bus drivers have moved here (to RTC headquarters) because they want to put pressure on the RTC to start issuing fines to the ATC for each bus route that's late with substitute drivers. Despite the deadline today nothing has really changed.

A striking bus driver yells into the bullhorn: "We're fighting for what we believe in and you're sitting there scabbing."

After 12 days on the picket line it was the same routine at the ATC Vancom bus yard on Friday--striking bus drivers stalling substitute bus drivers for the legally allowed two minutes.

You would never know that a deal was offered and a deadline has passed, but the drivers say none of them took the offer.

Dave Smyth, a striking bus driver says, "a lot of us were here early this morning to see if anyone crossed the line. From what we can tell, nobody, nobody crossed the line from last night. Everybody is standing together."

The ATC Vancom deal was: a $2.65 cent raise, spread over four years. It equals a two percent increase. It also included retroactive pay from March 15, not the January first date when the contract ended.

Starting in 2003, the contract offered Christmas and New Year's as vacation days.

And medical insurance would cost single drivers $15 a month. With one family member it would go up to $96 a month and a family would cost $120 a month.

Dawn Cornwall, a striking bus driver says, "I still say it's not a good contract for me. So, why should I go back? I'm in the same situation as I was in yesterday, no different. I might as well stay out here and strike."

And striking drivers don't believe that they can be so easily replaced.

Debra Simpson, a striking bus driver says, "if they're looking at one person going through four and a half months of training and you got 500 people out here who are experienced professionals, why would you want to waste the time to do that?"

Each time a bus route is more than ten minutes late to the yard, $300 is issued against ATC.

When the buses are more than twenty minutes late, ATC is fined $500. The bus drivers are here to put pressure on the RTC to start issuing those fines. The RTC says it's keeping track of the costs, but hasn't released how much it is. And they say they won't issue the fines until the strike has been settled.

 

Bus Drivers Reject Company's Contract Offer
 

(May 30) -- Local public transit bus drivers will remain on strike. CAT bus drivers voted overwhelmingly Wednesday night to reject the latest contract offer.

Only 39 drivers voted to go back to work the other 492 drivers voted to continue the strike. Union negotiators and A.T.C. Vancom are expected to head back to the bargaining Thursday morning where they will try to work out a deal that the drivers feel is fair.

Bus drivers are holding their spot on the picket line after voting "no" to a proposal from A.T.C. Vancom. One driver named Jaqueline said " It was insulting, it's worse than the last contract. It's unbelievable."

The deal would have given drivers a 2 percent pay raise, but it would have increased the amount they would pay for medical insurance. "They're giving us a 22 cent raise that adds up to about $400 a year, but then we're paying $900 in health benefits so they're taking from what I already make so I'm losing money," said Terry Richards, CAT driver.

The two sides will head back to the bargaining table. "They've taken a stand, taken a position this contract means a lot to them, not just look at a three year deal. We need the improvements today," said Gary Rauen, union representative.

But Valerie Michael a spokesperson for A.T.C. said: "We feel betrayed." She added, "The union representatives told us this was a good agreement, it was 'their' agreement. They thought union members would accept it."

Drivers like Paul Lloyd say there's no way, they could. "All we're trying to do is make ends meet without living paycheck to paycheck. We would like one paycheck to cover the bills like everyone else."

May 31, 2002

Bus drivers vow to stay on strike

By Launce Rake
Union bus drivers are charging the company that runs Citizens Area Transit with "union busting" for threatening to hire permanent replacements to keep the system moving.

ATC, which has a contract with the Regional Transportation Commission to operate the system, warned Thursday that any drivers not back to work before 4 a.m. today would lose health insurance and would not receive wage hikes until September -- if they had jobs to come back to.

Amalgamated Transit Local 1637 President Frank Opdyke said the company's vow to hire permanent replacements and to cut off health benefits is "a scare tactic to bust the union."

"We're not going to bust," Opdyke said.

Less than 100 of about 700 drivers crossed the picket line this morning, he said. A bus system website was reporting that 11 routes, including the Strip express, had no service. ATC officials did not return phone calls this morning.

The company is already hiring workers to bolster crews of supervisors, trainers and drivers from out of state. ATC spokeswoman Valerie Michael said those new drivers will not be fired to make way for union drivers who want to return to their jobs.

Dennis Kist, union attorney, said the company can hire permanent replacements but the striking workers' fate depends on the outcome of the labor action.

"If the union wins, they dictate the terms of surrender to the company," including bringing back the striking workers, Kist said.

But if the company wins, replacement workers would be called back -- but only if vacancies are available, he said.

Neither side is claiming a victory yet.

"You can't say who is winning who is losing at this stage of the game," Kist said. "There's no score. You just have to wait until there's an end to it."

Union drivers are vowing to continue the strike. Kist and Opdyke said labor's power rests in organization and the ability to wait out ATC.

The company cannot hire and train enough replacements to keep the system close to full operating strength, Opdyke said.

"What they are going to have is a collapse of the system. It takes weeks to train a driver. They are going to have accidents and problems out there."

The standoff signals that it could be weeks of frequent delays and missing buses that have plagued the system since the strike began May 20. Neither side is asking for a return to negotiations and both have said they will not budge from their latest contract proposals.

Michael said Thursday that numbers on how many drivers have crossed picket lines were not available. She did not return calls this morning.

Opdyke estimated that the total force of drivers that the company can now muster is less than a third of what it needs.

And the union still has at least 400 members regularly walking the picket lines, he said.

Hundreds of drivers rallied Thursday night and this morning and vowed that they will not cross pickets lines. They are striking for wages, benefits and holiday pay.

Drivers rallied in front of Regional Transportation Commission offices this morning, part of their strategy to draw Clark County's elected leadership into the fray.

The rally came a day after Opdyke met with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who said Thursday he is willing to serve as an arbitrator if both sides want him.

RTC officials say the union can rally at their offices, but it will not influence them. It cannot by federal law become involved in the contract talks, spokeswoman Ingrid Reisman said.

"Our contract states that in the event of a strike, ATC would provide replacement workers," Reisman said. "We cannot govern how a private company gets those workers."

But the union believes the RTC can influence the company, if not publicly then through back channels.

"We're going to show the RTC that we don't have just 50 or 60 drivers on strike," Opdyke said. "We have 500 or 600.

"We're strong, we're out there and we're not going to be intimidated."

But the union's call for solidarity has not affected the company's plans. Without a contract in place, company representatives say they have every right to hire replacement workers and terminate health insurance coverage for those on strike.

The contract for drivers expired Dec. 31. The union and company have been in fruitless talks for about eight months, including five months with a federal mediator.

Company officials said they believed they had a mutually satisfactory contract agreement in place early Tuesday morning, but a Wednesday vote by the union rejected the pact, 492-39.

The company's ultimatum to striking workers came a day later.

The company offered to bring back striking workers with a 2 percent raise retroactive to May as per the Tuesday morning agreement. The contract would give workers a 2 percent raise every six months with a 2.5 percent raise at the conclusion of the contract in September 2005.

The contract offer also included increased contributions to the health insurance plan, a provision vigorously opposed by drivers. An employee with a family now pays $95 a month to the health plan. Under the new contract, that payment could go up to $170 a month.

Drivers said they would lose any wage gains offered in the new contract because of the health plan increases. The last union counteroffer asked for 7 percent annual wage increases and no increases health plan contributions for two years.

Las Vegas bus operators are on strike as of May 20, 2002.
Please check the union bulletin board for information from the union leadership.
Remember, these are your fellow union brothers and sisters in Las Vegas that are trying to get a contract that they can live with.  If you are thinking of going over there to drive across the strike line remember our resent strike and what it would have felt like having a fellow union member from another local crossing our picket line. NO UNION MEMBER SHOULD EVEN BEGIN TO THINK OF GOING OVER THERE.  Anyone questioning this should call the union hall for some much needed advise.
And something more to think about...their top wage is $14.00/hr and the union is asking for 7% first year, 7% second year and a 5% third year on a three year contract.  That would roughly be a dollar raise for the first two years and a 50 cent raise the third year.  The company only wants to give them a 3.5 to 4% raise each year.  They don't keep those lights on in Vegas for chump change. Las Vegas can afford to get these operators a decent wage they can live on!
As of Wednesday evening May 29th the Las Vegas members turned down the proposal by 90%.  The strike continues.
Below are some recent articles about the strike.
You can also click the link below to go to a seperate webpage containing all the articles since the strike began.

 

Bus Strike Enters Second Week In Las Vegas
 
(June 3) -- Striking Valley bus drivers are now without insurance and may soon be without jobs. Neither CAT drivers nor employer ATC Van Lines is showing any signs of backing down, and the strike is now two weeks old. What are some of the sticking points of this strike?

Well, one sticking point is the bus drivers say ATC is offering a wage increase, but they say that pay hike would be wiped out by an increase in their health benefits.

Striking bus driver Bob Stamps says ATC Vancom's latest proposal is blatantly unfair.

They add it here and take it down here," he said. "It is an imaginary wage increase; it does not exist.

ATC offered the bus drivers a 2 percent raise every six months. But Amalgamated Transit Union negotiators say the drivers would lose the increase, because the company is also raising the amount workers contribute toward their health insurance.

I would have actually taken a pay cut and still have to pay $120 for my insurance if I would have ratified that contract, Stamps said.

ATC spokesperson Valerie Michael said: I don't know of anybody that isn't contributing something towards their health care.

Michael also says the rising cost of health care is why the company wants the drivers to pay part of their insurance.

Meanwhile, the company stopped paying the striking drivers' insurance over the weekend and is hiring replacement drivers for the strikers.

It's fair to say that we are moving toward replacing these people, Michael said.

The striking drivers say it would be smarter for the company to reach an agreement with the union, rather than trying to hire and train hundreds of new drivers.

They have to put them through six weeks of training, and I don't believe that the people of Las Vegas want this to go on for another six weeks, said striking driver David Brayboy.

Striking bus drivers say they're not concerned about replacement drivers taking their jobs; they're hoping that negotiations get back under way to get them a better wage and health benefit package.

They want us to pay 50 percent of our medical benefits and still don't want to give us a decent wage, Brayboy said.

The spokesperson for ATC Vancom told us the company is not asking the drivers to pay 50 percent of their health benefits They asking them to pay 50 percent of the increase, meaning if the increase is $10, the company wants the workers to pay $5.

Meanwhile, no negotiations are scheduled between the two parties.

 

June 14, 2002

Bus drivers, union to resume talks

By Launce Rake
The union representing bus drivers and the company managing the bus system met Thursday night, but neither side reported any breakthroughs to resolve the 26-day-old strike.

Both sides said they will go back to the bargaining table today.

A handful of routes still are not running and the Regional Transportation Commission, the public agency with overall responsibility for the system, reports that delays throughout the 51-route system are still occurring.

Frank Opdyke, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1637 president, said requests from RTC staff and elected officials have helped restart negotiations that ground to a halt more than two weeks ago. But about eight hours of talks Thursday night failed to bridge the impasse over wages, benefits and working conditions.

"The dynamics are still the same," Opdyke said. Representatives for ATC, the company with the contract to manage the system, "say they just can't do anything."

But for regional transportation officials, the fact that the two sides are meeting at all is positive.

"I don't think they are too far apart at this point," said Jacob Snow, RTC general manager. "At this point I think it's more of a personality than anything else. If they can get beyond that, I think both sides need to swallow a little pride."

The RTC, which has seen its daily bus ridership cut in half to 75,000, has pushed hard for resumption of the stalled negotiations. Snow and RTC board members met with company representatives Thursday afternoon and pushed for the talks.

The union, which has three of its international administrators in Las Vegas for the talks, provided a new proposal on paper for the company Wednesday night.

That is what the company needed before resuming talks, ATC spokeswoman Val Michael said.

She said those looking for a resolution to the strike have cause for optimism.

"I think there's a lot more optimism just because we're back at the table," Michael said. "We wouldn't be at the table if we didn't think it was serious, if we didn't think we could find some resolution."

 

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