Metro Transit workers reject management’s ‘best and final’ offer

Members of ATU Local 1005 gather outside contract talks with Metro Transit.

Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 voted May 17 to reject Metro Transit’s “best and final offer.”

The vote, in which 72% opposed the deal, shows “the members want management to get to the table and get this finished,” Ryan Timlin, Local 1005 president, said.

The union planned to request additional bargaining dates.

Local 1005 represents over 2,300 Metro Transit workers in talks with Metro Transit. The two sides have agreed to a temporary extension of their previous agreement, which expired Aug. 1, 2020, as negotiations continue.

But frustration with the agency’s plodding approach at the bargaining table – while transit workers continue to risk exposure to the virus – is at a tipping point among union members, bus operator Janea Scott said.

“We have put our families and our friends and ourselves at risk during COVID,” Scott said. “I feel like Metro Transit and the Met Council really don’t care about people like me out here working every day.”

ATU members voted overwhelmingly in September to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike.

Since then, they have been pushing Gov. Tim Walz and the Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Transit, for answers about how the agency’s COVID-relief windfall is being used to protect frontline workers.

Metro Transit’s latest offer included wage increases of 2 percent in the first year, 2 percent in the second year and 2.5 percent in the third and final year.

But management has refused to discuss the union’s list of about 20 non-cost items, including several safety issues. Timlin called that approach “infuriating,” given the risks workers face during the pandemic.

In addition, Metro Transit has been unwilling to address hazard pay for workers’ service through the pandemic.

“Those were the things that really pushed a ‘no’ vote,” Timlin said. To get a breakthrough in the negotiations, he added, “we might have to do some actions. We’ll see.”

– Updated May 25, 2021, to include reporting by the Minneapolis Labor Review.

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