Metro Transit workers say contract talks are running behind schedule

Members of ATU Local 1005 pack the gallery at last night’s Met Council meeting.

Fed up with Metro Transit’s casual approach to negotiating a new contract, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 shared their frustration yesterday with Metro Transit’s governing body, the Met Council.

Carrying homemade signs and wearing their Metro Transit uniforms, about 30 members of ATU Local 1005 packed the gallery during the Met Council’s meeting downtown St. Paul. Their message to council members was clear: Get Metro Transit to bargain in good faith.

The Twin Cities’ regional public transportation service, Metro Transit is a division of the Met Council, a 17-member board appointed by the governor. Metro Transit employs about 2,200 members of ATU Local 1005.

The previous contract between Local 1005 and Metro Transit expired July 31. Negotiations on a new agreement began in May, but the two sides have made little progress, particularly when it comes to major issues like wages, health care benefits and work rules.

Local 1005 President Michelle Sommers accused Metro Transit management of dragging its feet.

“We haven’t made any progress to speak of on a new contract,” she said. “They have not even given us health care numbers, let alone a wage package yet.”

ATU Local 1005 members agreed to a two-year wage freeze during negotiations on their last contract – a bone of contention after management jobs swelled.

Unfortunately, that’s business as usual for Metro Transit. Two years ago the agency dragged out its last round of negotiations with Local 1005, finally settling nine months after the previous contract had expired.

The two sides have a history of contentious labor relations. Local 1005 members staged a six-week strike in 2004, nine years after an 18-day strike at Metro Transit.

Union members agreed to a two-year wage freeze in their last contract, but have been angered by Metro Transit’s decision to hire more people for management positions since then.

Sommers said Metro Transit administrators foster a culture of disrespect among management for front-line workers – something union members hope to address in negotiations on a new contract.

“It’s about day-to-day equality and respect,” she said. “They are very, very disrespectful to employees here. Their approach is to manage by fear, and that’s a major focus of ours in getting a contract done.”

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