April 2, 2014: Bus service is at a standstill but solidarity is on the rise in Vermont where a Teamster strike has shut down the state’s largest public transit system continues.
As Teamster Voice goes to press, the strike at the Chittenden County Transportation Authority is entering its third week.
Community groups, unions, and the public are uniting in support of the drivers who have made driver fatigue and public safety a key issue in the contract dispute.
“We will not let the public down by driving under unsafe conditions,” said driver Rob Slingerland, one of the lead organizers of the drivers rank-and-file contract campaign. “Driver fatigue is a leading factor in accidents in the transit industry.”
A typical work day for drivers already begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m., a 12½ hour spread for which workers get paid only seven hours. Management wants to increase the spread of hours even more to 13½ hours a day.
Local 597 members are also demanding an end to unfair discipline, including management’s abuse of anonymous tips to write up drivers.
CCTA refused to budge on these issues, provoking the strike. Management’s plan was to to pit “greedy union workers” against the public.
This strategy has been used by employers and corporate politicians across the country to attack public employee unions and force concessions. But Local 597 members were
Long before the strike, shop stewards and other rank-and-file leaders began meeting with members from other unions, students and concerned bus riders at the Vermont Workers Center.
They organized Town Hall meetings and press conferences to make their case to the
public and build community support.
On the first day of the strike, drivers and supporters knocked on doors and passed out handbills across Burlington. They posted “I Love My Bus Driver” lawn signs across the city.
Throughout the strike, public supporters and other unions have been a fixture on the picket lines, in marches and rallies, and in an emergency meeting of the City Council.
Management thought that drivers would be isolated and cave in after a few days on the picket lines.
But a driver-community alliance continues to power the fight for a fair contract at the CCTA.