UT Bus Battle Turns Nasty

Shuttle drivers fired after taking part in student solidarity protest

An ongoing labor dispute between UT shuttle bus drivers and employer ATC/Vancom took a nasty turn on April 9 when the transit company fired two drivers who participated in a student-organized event to raise awareness on behalf of the workers. The shuttle drivers, represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1549, have been locked in a two-year battle with the for-profit ATC/Vancom (a subcontractor to Capital Metro, which provides the shuttle service by agreement with the university). Among the many points of dispute are wages – drivers have not received raises in three years – and health benefits, which drivers say have repeatedly been slashed.

On April 9 the two drivers – Glenn Gaven and the union local's vice-president, James Frank – were fired for attending the student-organized demonstration the previous week. According to a press release, ATC claimed the demonstration was a "work stoppage" and threatened employees with disciplinary sanction if they attended. Despite the threat, 30 workers attended the rally; one week later Gaven and Frank received their walking papers. According to Frank Edwards, a spokesman for Students for a Safe and Fair Shuttle, ATC's General Manager Chadwick Reese told the group that the two drivers were fired for "encouraging other drivers to drop their shifts" to attend the April 2 rally – a charge Edwards said the drivers deny.

Edwards said the group plans to attend the April 26 Capital Metro board meeting in an attempt to put more pressure on ATC to resolve the current dispute. If that fails, he said, the group will pressure UT and Cap Metro to cancel ATC/Vancom's contract.

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