Contract Victory in Vermont

April 15, 20011: Just hours before their strike deadline, Teamster bus drivers won a contract that delivers on the key issues. The victory is the result of a well-organized contract campaign which proved once again that the best way to avoid a strike is to be prepared to win one.

Local 597 members voted on April 9 by an overwhelming 52 to 6 to reject a contract offer from the Chittenden County Transit Authority. The rejected deal was agreed to by Local 597 officials behind the backs of the drivers’ elected bargaining committee.

The bargaining committee was back at the negotiating table on Thursday, April 14 for final talks with management and a federal mediator before a midnight strike deadline.

CCTA management was over a barrel. They had already publicly admitted that they would not be able to operate without the Teamster drivers. And drivers had organized widespread public support thanks to early outreach to activists in other unions who organized a solidarity campaign.

The final contract talks lasted a grueling 10 hours. In the end, management caved in on drivers’ key issues:

  • Protecting Full-Time Jobs: The new agreement provides the first-ever 40-hour guarantee for most full-time drivers. Management wanted to eliminate full-timers to 37½ hours a week.
  • Scheduling Improvements: The new contract protects drivers from forced overtime and limits the spread time that drivers can be forced to work on a split shift.
  • Ending Kangaroo Court Justice: The new contract includes language changes that will mean a more fair disciplinary procedure—including establishing the just cause principle, requiring progressive discipline, and establish a washout clause so management can’t keep old offenses hanging over drivers’ heads.

The victory was won at the 11th hour but the successful contract campaign was anything but last minute. Drivers held workshops with Teamsters for a Democratic Union a year ago to begin preparing a contract campaign.

They organized a member-to-member network, built community support, and stood up to both management and their own local union officials.

“When members stick together, good things happen.” said TDU member Scott Ranney. “When the no vote is 52 to 6, management and Local 597 officers had to stand up to take notice.”