Metro-area bus union rejects final contract offer; strike could follow

Britt Johnsen

U-Pass and Metropass customers might soon see the first bus driver strike since 1995, before the programs were implemented.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 voted Sunday and Monday on Metropolitan Council’s final contract offer. The union rejected the offer 94 percent to 6 percent, which authorizes the group to strike.

“The membership is angry and the vote shows it,” said Ronald Lloyd, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, which represents 2,150 Metro Transit employees.

The council oversees and operates Metro Transit.

The final two-year contract offer includes a wage freeze for the first year and a 1 percent increase the following year.

The previous offer entailed a three-year contract. The union voted on the Metropolitan Council’s offer in December. When the union rejected that contract, they agreed to enter binding arbitration, which would call in a third party to decide an offer.

The two parties could not decide on which issues to arbitrate and entered mediation again.

The union must now send a letter of intent to strike to the Bureau of Mediation Services and Metropolitan Council. From there, a 10-day cooling off period will be allowed. After that, the union could strike at any time.

If a strike occurs, the earliest it would happen is March 1, Lloyd said.

Peter Bell, Metropolitan Council chairman, said because the union has not yet written the letter, negotiations are possible.

“I’m very disappointed that the union rejected our final offer,” Bell said. “We’re not putting any more money on the table.”

Lori Ann Vicich, marketing manager for Parking and Transportation Services, said although the union has not decided on a strike, it will conduct a plan of action as soon as possible.

“It’s a pretty big deal for our department because we have a lot of customers who rely on transit as a way to get to work and school,” Vicich said.