September 12, 2005

Tensions Continue As TCAT Fails to Agree on Contract

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After approximately eight months of negotiations, the approximately 80 bus drivers and mechanics of Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) are still without a contract. Union members represented by United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2300 met last night in the union hall of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 267 to discuss and vote upon the most current contract proposal offered by TCAT.

Members of the bargaining unit met for nearly two and a half hours. During the course of the meeting they relayed their disappointment and discouragement with the current contract proposal, and ultimately voted against accepting it by an overwhelming margin.

While the specific terms of the contract will not be made public until a agreement is ratified by the membership, a major source of the worker’s discontentment with the contract proposal involved wages.

“The benefits are there; the numbers just aren’t what we were looking for” said one TCAT bus driver.

“They don’t pay us enough money,” said Keyshon Johnson who was present at last night’s meeting. TCAT’s bus drivers make on average four to $4 to $8 less per hour than bus drivers in comparable New York cities. Additionally, workers lamented their loss of various benefits and wage increases as a result of TCAT’s January consolidation. In that agreement all of the bus drivers of Cornell, the city of Ithaca and Tompkins county became employees of TCAT.

According to Scott Montani, UAW international representative, yesterday’s presentation of the contract proposal was not called with the presumption that the bargaining unit would agree to the provisions of the contract.

“I think the membership needed an update and I think that they needed to send a strong message to TCAT what their expectations were. I think they did that tonight,” he said.

According to Montani, UAW representatives are going to sit down and discuss their next strategies. He said that there is a “chance of job actions” and that the potential of a strike was discussed as a viable option during the course of the meeting.

In previous weeks UAW Local members have picketed in various Ithaca locations carrying signs requesting a contract, and demanding that Cornell pay bus fare on par with the rest of the community. Additionally, pink leaflets stating “What if TCAT buses didn’t run?” have appeared on buses.

While the union’s strategies are still being discussed, the TCAT contract negotiations will be a visible issue throughout Ithaca in the coming weeks.

According to Patrick Young ’06, member of Cornell Organization for Labor Action, who was in attendance at yesterday’s meeting, his organization intends to continue riding bicycles in front of buses, inducing a work slowdown. Since the TCAT contract does not allow for drivers to purposefully slow down service, COLA has been biking slowly in front of the buses to help the drivers protest their lack of contract.

A few of the union members left the union hall repeating “It’s not over yet”.

Archived article by Katie Pollack
Sun Staff Writer