Cap Metro Aftertaste: No Love Lost

Wounds still fresh from Cap Metro/ATU conflict

Last week, right at the Chronicle's Wed­nesday publication deadline, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, representing about 800 drivers and mechanics of Capital Metro, voted to accept the contract offer of StarTran, the subcontractor that employs them. The Nov. 12 vote officially brought an end to a three-day strike and 18 months of working without a contract. The vote was 289 to approve the contract, 44 against. At ATU's Wednes­day night press conference, ATU 1091 President Jay Wyatt said he considered the strike a success, despite being disappointed with aspects of the contract. "We didn't get screwed too bad," he laughed. "The majority of the members stuck together and stood up to Capital Metro," he said. "It's like going into a fight with a bear with a toothpick. Capital Metro has a lot of money and the best union avoidance attorney in the country," referring to the company's chief negotiator, Tom Hock of Ohio-based Professional Transit Management.

Wyatt said he's pleased with the wage increases secured: 3% per year through 2011, which he described as consistent with the national average for transit workers. However, the union accepted a $1,200 bonus this year instead of getting a 3% raise retroactive to 2007 and had to accept increased insurance costs. "A lot of the employees, even though they voted to accept this contract, were upset about the fact that they didn't get the retroactive pay back to 2007, and they didn't want to see the insurance change," Wyatt said. "But we had to tell them this was the best we could do under the circumstances."

Wyatt also leveled some serious accusations at Capital Metro about its conduct during the strike. "They lied to y'all and told y'all that they had a quarter of the people back to work," he said. "They brought in people from out of town that weren't even driving the buses. They were taking the buses out on the streets and parking them on the streets. They weren't picking up people. ... They were taking buses out and parking them, because they didn't know the city and were getting lost all over the place.

"Look at all this tax money they wasted," he went on, accusing StarTran of paying replacement workers high wages "to bust this union" and putting them up in hotels. "They could have just negotiated the contract."

Contacted for a response, Capital Metro chose not to directly address Wyatt's allegations: "Now that StarTran and the union have a contract, it's time for all of us to move forward and renew our efforts to provide high quality and critically important transportation services to the citizens of Central Texas," said spokesman Adam Shaivitz.

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Capital Metro, Jay Wyatt, Amalgamated Transit Union 1091, StarTran

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