The members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, who operate Twin Cities buses and light rail, voted Sunday and Monday to approve a new two-year contract with Metro Transit.
The vote to approve the contract — 83 percent in favor, 17 percent opposed — came three weeks after members overwhelmingly voted to reject an earlier contract offer.
That 95 percent vote to reject the first contract offer sent Metro Transit and ATU negotiators back to the bargaining table, with the Republican National Convention only seven weeks away. “Both parties were aware the Republican Convention was coming,” said Michelle Sommers, president of ATU Local 1005.
In 2004, Local 1005 went on strike for six weeks after rejecting a contract offer.
In a dramatic turn-around, the Local 1005 executive committee voted 18-0 to recommend members accept Metro Transit’s latest contract offer. The executive committee had voted 18-0 to recommend rejection of the earlier contract offer.
The new contract offers a wage increase of 2.25 percent Sept. 1, 2008, followed by a 2 percent increase Sept. 1, 2009. The contract runs from Aug. 1, 2008, to July 31, 2010.
“It’s something the membership can live with for two years,” Sommers said.
Sommers said the contract also offers wage class increases for some departments.
In addition, she said, the contract includes a 50-cent-per-hour shift differential for bus operators working from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. She said the union long had sought a shift differential for the overnight shift.
The contract held increases in family health costs to an acceptable level, Sommers reported.
Negotiations for the new contract began the first week of December 2007 — much earlier than normal, Sommers noted, for a contract due to expire July 31, 2008. Members voted approval to go into negotiations early.
ATU Local 1005 and Metro Transit mapped out a six month schedule of negotiations.
“We met, even if we had nothing to discuss, we met,” Sommers said.
“The union goal was to get a contract done in time for the first time in the history of Local 1005,” Sommers said. With members approving a contract Aug. 4, Sommers said, “this is the closest to on-time anyone can remember.”
The gain for members: the contract’s wage increases come Sept. 1, instead of being pushed back to February, as had happened in previous contracts.
“It’s a positive change,” Sommers said.
The contract covers about 2,200 workers, including bus operators, train operators, mechanics, office and clerical staff, and maintenance workers.
Steve Share edits the Labor Review, the official publication of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. Visit the federation’s website, www.minneapolisunions.org