Bus drivers go on strike amid union infighting
A strike left some 9,000 disabled passengers out in the cold after union members rejected a deal backed by its leaders.
From Crains NY:
December 10. 2007 4:01PM By: Kira Bindrim
Bus drivers who provide transportation to elderly and disabled New Yorkers
walked off the job Monday morning, forcing up to 9,000 passengers to find
other ways to get around, after union members voted down a contract that
union leaders had backed.
The 1,500 members of Local 1181 of the Para Transit Drivers and Mechanics of
the Amalgamated Transit Union rejected a contract offer last month from the
Paratransit Operations Coalition. The contract, which called for wage
increases, was approved by union leaders but rejected by membership, as it
also called for an increase in employees' contributions to health insurance
"We are so upset that we had to do this," said Tommy Mullins, a union vice
president and trustee of Local 1181, who says no talks have been scheduled.
"Anything that would move this employer group to come and talk to us I would
welcome with open arms."
But the Coalition says union politics, not contract terms, are stalling an
agreement. Local 1181, currently under investigation for corruption,
operates as a trusteeship, and posturing related to the election of new
officers has caused division. Members for Change, one outside group opposing
current union leadership, campaigned against the Coalition's contract. "We
believe they're just trying to do what they can to make the current union
leadership look bad," says Mintz and Gold labor attorney Jeff Pollack, the
chief negotiator for the Coalition. Mr. Pollack says the Coalition will
"consider the request" if and when they are contacted by Local 1181.
"It's hard to tell [the impact]," said Paul Fleuranges, a spokesman for the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority's New York City Transit, which runs
the city's Access-A-Ride Program. "Clearly though, having four carriers out
has had an effect on our capacity. Not everyone is being served."
The MTA, which on Monday instituted a contingency plan to aid affected
passengers, says it is currently reassigning trips and using other transit
providers, including private ambulette carriers, to handle trips. A taxi
voucher option also allows passengers to submit receipts for their trips and
get reimbursed by the MTA.
Some are unwilling to wait for the two sides to settle. On Sunday, Disabled
Riders Coalition Executive Director Michael Harris called on Mayor Michael
Bloomberg and Gov. Eliot Spitzer to intervene in the talks.
Spokespeople for Messrs. Bloomberg and Spitzer were unavailable to comment
on whether they would get involved.
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