Teamsters vote for Phoenix transit strike

Sun Tran workers voted Saturday to authorize a strike if their union decides one is necessary after the union contract expires Tuesday at midnight. According to Andy Marshall, a principal officer for Local 104, 99.9 percent said "yes" in the votes, tallied after three meetings were held to accommodate members' schedules, a formality that is required under union bylaws. The contract, which expires Tuesday night, covers about 465 drivers, mechanics and fuel-island attendants, 85 percent of whom are union members, said Michele Joseph, Sun Tran spokeswoman. At issue are wages, pensions and health care, Marshall said.

A strike would happen only if Sun Tran on Tuesday offers what Marshall called a "firm and final" contract, which is usually a contract the union doesn't agree with. Union members would still have to vote on whether to accept the contract, and that vote wouldn't happen until a meeting next Saturday. If the members reject the contract, they will go on strike, as they did in 1997 and 2001.

"The biggest issue that needs to be addressed is the expansion of the city bus system in the future. We're concerned they're going to contract that work out for lower pay and benefits," Marshall said.
He said the Teamsters have proposed 12 percent raises and asked to maintain the health-care package.


Did you know ...

• The city has used a private firm to manage its bus service since the late 1970s because the City Charter prohibits employee strikes. The stipulation conflicts with federal transit grants, which mandate that recipients allow workers to strike. The current oversight company, Professional Transit Management Ltd., came on board in July 1999.

• In August 1997, Teamsters Local 104 went on strike after working for 10 days without a contract with Sun Tran when the union and the bus company could not agree on raises. That strike lasted for about a week, during which Tucson Unified School District began the school year with 3,000 students needing bus rides. The strike ended after the City Council stepped in and offered a one-year contract that raised Sun Tran workers' pay to what comparable city employees were earning.

• The following year, the Teamsters again said they were ready to strike but didn't have to. Their contract was renewed and increased average drivers' pay 19 percent and mechanics' pay 24 percent over the three-year life of the agreement.

• In 2001, the Teamsters union and Sun Tran extended their contract for a month after it expired, until the end of August that year. The Teamsters then agreed to work through Labor Day weekend but ultimately went on strike for 12 days before reaching an agreement that gave them $1.11 in raises over three years.


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