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Transit workers’ union reaches tentative agreement with TARC

11012022_TARC union worker protest_by Roberto Roldan
Roberto Roldan
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Charles Finley, a TARC bus operator, protests the agency as the workers' union demands a better contract.

After months of strained negotiations, union leaders reached a tentative labor agreement  with workers at the Transit Authority of River City, averting a possible strike.

The proposed contract approved Thursday by TARC leaders and leadership of the ATU Local 1447 would give all of the city’s bus transit employees a raise in each of the next two years: a 6% wage increase the first year, and a 4% increase the second year.

According to a press release from TARC spokesperson Jenny Recktenwald, the contract would also add Juneteenth as a holiday, reimburse employees for costs associated with getting their commercial drivers license or CDL, increase instructor pay and raise allowances for tools, shoes and uniforms.

“This agreement provides our Union employees with a fair wage and benefits package,” TARC Executive Director Carrie Butler said in a statement sent by Recktenwald. “We are fully committed to recommending this agreement to our Board of Directors and feel confident they will accept it.”

The contract will go to the 450 members of the union for ratification on Nov. 30. Local union president Lillian Brents said she will be recommending members vote in favor of the agreement.

She noted that the contract would provide across-the-board pay raises, as opposed to an earlier TARC proposal that would have given higher raises to workers in certain departments.

The proposal also creates a safety committee, where Brents said members and management can discuss concerns. Drivers have been frustrated by a lack of working radios, which they say creates dangerous situations when violence or health emergencies occur on board.

“We had to fight every step of the way for what we felt like was serious issues in regards to safety, wages and working conditions,” Brents said.

The union voted to authorize a strike last month, after TARC proposed wage increases that workers felt were too low. A press release from an ATU spokesperson says the new tentative agreement averts a potential strike.

Brents said the agreement was “negotiated in good faith,” but the relationship between the union and TARC leadership remains uneasy.

“We still have challenges when it comes to the current leadership, Brents said, adding that union members want representation on TARC’s board of directors.

“We just want our seat at the table,” she said.

If the contract is ratified by union members, it will go to the TARC board of directors for final approval on Dec. 13.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.