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Mar
2014
5

Vermont Bus Drivers, Enduring Partial Pay and 12-Hour Days for Months, Authorize Strike

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Teamsters bus drivers in Vermont have voted to strike against unsafe work conditions, surveillance, and scheduling.  An overwhelming 53-4 vote means a walkout planned for March 10th will forge ahead unless new offers are made.  

At the heart of the matter are long work days which often have bus drivers on duty for over 12 hours while only getting paid for part of their time. They must transport people between 6:50 AM and 9:00 AM and finish their shift between 2:20 PM and 7:20 PM.  This schedule causes fatigue which places those who the drivers transport at risk.  

As Burlington City Councilor Rachel Siegel explained to Labor Notes:

“Every day we put the lives of our friends and families and ourselves in their hands.  Is it just to ask a driver to go without a bathroom break and end up urinating in their pants? Is it just to ask workers to drive to the point of fatigue and accidents?

“Do we need to wait for a tragedy before we take action? I hope not.”

In the past decade, the Chittenden County Transportation Authority has seen a major expansion of services while the drivers have been asked to do more and more without reward.  As State Senator Ginny Lyons said:

The drivers are“the last ones being thought of. You can’t have capital expansion, increasing infrastructure, more buses, without carefully ensuring each step of the way you have money for operations, and that means drivers.”

Recent investments in the CCTA include  $3.1 million for new buses in 2008, $3.3 million for Wi-fi on buses in 2012, and plans are in place for a $15 million transportation hub and a $10 million bus station in the future.  Over that period the CCTA reports their ridership has grown by 63 percent.  

In February, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger seemed optimistic that a deal would be reached, but it has not come to fruition:

“The impact of mass transit on our community is very significant and it would be difficult for our kids to get to school and for commuters of it comes to a strike. I’m hopeful it won’t come to that,”

Negotiations broke down after a 15-hour meeting in February.  The bus drivers have been working for a fair contract for nearly nine months.  A coalition of union members, representatives of workers centers, school faculty, students, and teachers have supported the drivers along the way.  

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