The Austin Chronicle

Labor Dispute Moves To Arbitration

By Lee Nichols, July 8, 2011, News

Capital Metro has demanded arbitration in its labor dispute (see "Labor Changes Irk Transit Workers," July 1). Citing a 1989 agreement allowing for it, Cap Metro petitioned to have an arbitration panel settle whether the agency must comply with state Senate Bill 650, which ordered the transit agency to either bring all employees in-house or contract out with private companies for rank-and-file labor. Cap Metro says it must comply, and its board of directors chose the latter option last week after Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091 rejected the former. ATU, however, says the agency isn't obligated to follow the state law because federal law trumps it and says the federal law will force the private contractors to continue employing bus drivers and mechanics at the same wages and benefits they currently enjoy, which presumably would keep the private option from saving the agency any money. Under the arbitration, Cap Metro would select one panelist, the union would select another, and those two would select a third. "Capital Metro has chosen the most expensive route possible," said ATU attorney Glenda Pittman, and the union would prefer a different process that would involve the U.S. Department of Labor. Instead, she alleged, this route would result in a decision made by people with "little knowledge" of the law involved. She also said the union might not be obligated to agree to the arbitration.

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