Silicon Valley Transit Strike Possible?

Riders board the VTA’s 10 FREE Airport shuttle bus in Santa Clara.

Could a public transit worker strike in Silicon Valley be on the horizon?  ATU Local 265 – the labor union representing VTA’s bus drivers, light rail operators, mechanics, and other workers will take a final vote on VTA’s “Best, Last, and Final Offer” on Wednesday.

VTA and ATU Local 265 have been in talks on a new labor contract since last August.  Talks have been at an impasse over wages, pensions, and operational efficiencies.  VTA’s latest offer was provided to ATU Local 265 on May 10.

A transit strike in Silicon Valley will affect more than 120,000 daily VTA transit riders.  More on what is going on follows…

VTA’s Take On Labor Negotiations

According to VTA, here’s what members of ATU Local 265 will be voting on, this coming Wednesday:

  • An 11.1% wage increase over three years:
    • (3%, 2.5% and 2.5%) increase to the base wages, and;
    • a 3.1% lump-sum payment spread over three years (1.1%, 1% and 1%) to help offset the pension contribution VTA is asking ATU to make towards their benefit. Currently, ATU is the only bargaining unit at VTA in which most members do not fully contribute to their pension benefit.
  • The cost of the wage increase is $27.7 million.
  • In addition to the wage increase, VTA’s “last, best and final offer” includes the 37 tentative agreements reached by VTA and ATU. These include cost of living increase for retirees, accelerated wage progression, $300 per year in medical expenses for each of the 1,600 union members, and paid benefits for union officials and union administrative personnel, for a total cost of $30.9 million.

ATU Local 265’s Take On Labor Negotiations

Here’s what ATU Local 265 had to say on what VTA is offering, as mentioned in two recent Twitter tweets:

  • Increase in Base Wages.  VTA is offering an increase to our base Salary of 8% over 3 years, 3.0% in year 1, 2.5% in year 2 and 2.5% in year 3. This offer is below standard wage increases in our industry and not on par with the United States Department of Labor Consumer Price Index (CPI) which rose 4% over the past year in our region.
  • Lump Sum Payment to offset Pension Contribution.  VTA claims the lump sum is to offset a proposed pension contribution. Not only do the numbers not match, any increase to the Pension contribution will be permanent and the lump sum payment will only be for the next 3 years.
  • Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for Retirees.  The COLA for ATU Retirees is a good start to help our Retired Members. The Pension is currently funded at 74% and in order for our retirees to receive the 2% increase to their pension, the pension fund would need to reach 78% funding. Therefor, not one retiree would receive an increase to their pension as the proposal is currently written.
  • Accelerated Wage Progression.  The Union presented this proposal so that our newer Operators would not longer have to work 48 months to reach top pay. This is a good proposal for both ATU and VTA. However, only a handful of new operators will qualify for the Accelerated Wage Progression.
  • Run Cutting.  VTA cliams “Safety above Service” yet proposes to increase the amount of “split Shifts” for Operators. “Split Runs” create unsafe Operators, for example; many of our members cannot afford to live where we work so we commute long distances to and from work. VTA is pushing to increase an all [sic] ready unsafe working condition.
  • Dental.  ATU Members have not had an increase to our Dental Insurance since 2001. The Union is asking for a $500 increase to both Basic Dental and Orthodontics.
  • Part Time Operators.  VTA continues to request changes to the Part Time Operator language all [sic] ready in the contract.
  • Tools.  VTA is proposing to change the Tool Allowance for Maintenance workers to a reimbursement system. Starting at $500 per year with a yearly increase of $85.00.

One way ATU Local 265 members are expected to vote:

Transit Labor Scuttlebutt

On Monday, I received two reports – one online, and one phone call – regarding VTA buses that “no-showed” their scheduled trips.  Rumor had begun to circulate of a “sick-out” of 30 VTA bus drivers calling in sick that day.

Here’s what ATU Local 265 had to say about it:

Word will be put out thru @svtransitupdts on Twitter tomorrow, in case something does happen.  If you notice your scheduled VTA bus or light rail trip does not show up, please notify us.

Conclusion

We will continue to monitor and update this as circumstances and facts warrant.

Eugene Bradley
Founder, Silicon Valley Transit Users

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