The Austin Chronicle

Transit Union Resists Giving Up Pay Raise

By Lee Nichols, July 3, 2009, News

To the surprise of no one, Capital Metro's main labor subcontractor and the transit workers union are fighting again.

In letters dated June 17 and 23 to Joneth "Jay" Wyatt, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, StarTran Inc. General Manager Terry Garcia Crews suggested that its workers should forgo their contractually scheduled raise this year to help Cap Metro with its current budget crunch. Crews suggested that such a measure would encourage Cap Metro to stop shifting routes away from the union, to cheaper contractors Veolia Transportation and First Transit.

Crews noted that the Cap Metro board authorized the agency to freeze administrative and executive staff wages if necessary and possibly ask those employees to take one or two days off each quarter without pay. "These steps demonstrate how serious the budget situation is, and how the declining tax revenues are impacting CMTA and StarTran as well," wrote Crews. "We are all sacrificing to help during these constrained budget times."

That went over like a lead balloon. "It's my belief that under the National Labor Relations Act, it's not legal for an Employer to threaten to contract out work if the leadership of the Union don't agree with them," Wyatt wrote in reply. "We keep hearing from Capital Metro/StarTran that it's all about 12% in tax they're not going to receive this year, but they knew that was going to be a problem way before they spent and mis-managed tax payers dollars on the train and other unknown projects. They force the Union on Strike in 2005 and 2008 and clearly stated each time they had plenty of money, but they needed more give backs from us (The Union Members) to pay for rail."

Back in April, Cap Metro asked the union to provide a list of items it would like to see included in a possible audit by the State Aud­itor. The union responded with 14 items, including a list of everything that caused a spend-down of the agency's $185 million in reserves during this decade, all documents that were shredded by the agency over the past 12 years, and details of Cap Metro CEO Fred Gilliam's retirement package.

In the recent communications with Crews, the union further requested that StarTran provide the info. Crews replied last week that most of the info they wanted was available online in Capital Metro's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and the rest was not info that StarTran is authorized to provide.

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