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As contract negotiations drag, Cap Metro bus drivers symbolically protest

Thursday, February 20, 2020 by Jerry Quijano, KUT

Some Capital Metro bus drivers wore black makeup or a black sticker under their eyes Wednesday in a symbolic “Black Eye” protest of drawn-out labor negotiations between their union and a Capital Metro contractor.

Capital Metro awarded a $1.4 billion contract to MV Transportation in August to handle its bus operations and maintenance services. Before the contract, Capital Metro divided its operations between MV and another company, meaning drivers were paid different wages depending on which contractor they worked for.

MV and the union have been working since the fall on a new labor contract to cover all union members.

Brent Payne, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, says the protracted negotiations are causing tension among employees who didn’t previously work under MV. He says the union feels the transition wasn’t handled properly.

“Right now you have drivers who may have the same tenured years of service, both operators may have worked 10 years, driving the same route,” Payne said. “And they’re paid at two different wage scales. The benefits are at … two different levels.”

The union is also looking for a guaranteed 40-hour workweek as well as the right to earn overtime pay after eight hours of work, he said.

Jeff Womack, chief marketing officer at MV Transportation, says the company is committed to offering fair wages to the workers.

“We have met regularly with the union and have been extremely responsive to their demands,” he said in a statement. “We are not aware of, nor do we anticipate, any union-led disruption of service.”

MV and the union are scheduled to go back to the negotiating table Thursday and Friday. But Payne said he doesn’t anticipate those talks to end favorably and is asking his members to join him at Monday’s meeting of the Capital Metro board to voice their concerns.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT.

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