Failed ATU organizer blames employer, sues

One vote. That made the difference Friday in a tension-filled — and failed — effort to unionize Lodi's GrapeLine bus drivers.

Thirty-eight drivers and four support staff split 21 to 21 on whether to join. A successful vote required 50 percent in favor, plus one more vote.

"We've very pleased that it came out the way it came out," said Nikki Frenney, vice president for MV Transportation, the Fairfield-based company that employs the drivers, and contracts with the city of Lodi (CA).

"We prefer not having a third party," she added.

Vincent Congino, business agent for Amalgamated Transit Union of Stockton, said the union's involvement in Lodi is not over. He said it would file allegations of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board.

"The union is not going away. Those people better not get fired," he said of the MV employees who had supported the union.

The issue sparked protests at the city's transportation center in Downtown, plus claims of sabotage and even racism.

Congino declined to go into specifics about possible labor violations but said MV Transportation had brought in union busters. The transportation company has said it merely hired a consultant to discuss advantages and disadvantages of unionizing.

Should the NLRB find the vote was unfair, it could require another vote.

Frenney, of the transportation company, said MV employees who were pro-union will be treated fairly.

"They will still have a job with MV Transportation," she said. "That is their right at any time to challenge management with a union process."

She said the company hopes workers will return to the cohesive unit they were before the contentious vote.


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