Charging The NFTA Is “Looking To Bust The Union” – ATU-Represented NFTA Workers Are ‘Fed Up’ With Not Having A New Contract For Seven Years Now, Will ‘Ratchet Up’ Public Pressure This Week
Rally, TV Commercial & Hand-Billing Effort During High-Profile NHL Entry Draft In Downtown Buffalo Combine To Warn Public About NFTA ‘Cutting Down’ On Inner City Bus Routes & Transit Authority’s “Inability” To Find Qualified Bus Drivers & Mechanics
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Pictured above, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1342-represented Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) Workers in Buffalo rallied outside the Downtown Buffalo bus station today (Thursday, June 23rd) where the NFTA’s offices are located to protest the lack of a new contract. It’s going on seven years now that NFTA’s Union Employees have been working without a new contract. The ATU is ratcheting up the pressure on the NFTA this week, holding a rally, airing a TV commercial and hand-billing during the high-profile National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft, which is being held in the First Niagara Center – the home of the Buffalo Sabres. (WNYLaborToday.com Photos)
(BUFFALO) – Ask Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1342 President Vince Crehan why his Union’s 1,100 Members - who are employed by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) in Buffalo, have not had a contract for nearly seven years now, he pauses for a moment, then answers: “Because they want to bust the Union.”
And after listening to Crehan quickly roll off several reasons why he believes that statement to be true, it’s hard to argue with him: With the current starting rate for Bus Drivers at $13 per hour – which makes it “extremely hard” to recruit new Drivers, the NFTA’s last contract offer contained an unbelievable six zeros in terms of yearly wage increases; and the NFTA wants its Union-represented Employees to agree to pay 10% of their health care coverage. The NFTA also wants new hires to pay 15% of their health care costs, without a cap, he tells WNYLaborToday.com.
Local 1342 represents 1,100 NFTA Workers who are employed by the public transit system as Bus and Light Rail Drivers, Mechanics, Electricians and Clerical Staff. Over the past several years, the ATU has waged a public campaign to focus a spotlight on its lack of a contract with the NFTA. From high-profile billboards to informational picketing held outside the homes of NFTA executive board members to protests outside NFTA job fairs seeking new Drivers, the Union’s taken its message to the public and specifically to the NFTA’s ridership
Right now, the NFTA is currently and still 35 to 40 Bus Drivers short, according to Crehan, and in order to close that gap, the Transit Authority is cutting 35 to 40 trips from its schedule in Buffalo’s Inner City, leaving its minority residents in the lurch, while making a conscious decision to “instead, take care of the suburban routes.”
“You could have someone waiting for a (scheduled) bus (run) on Bailey Avenue (on Buffalo’s East Side) and it ‘won’t come,’” he told WNYLaborToday.com.
These are facts the ATU doesn’t believe the general public and those who ride NFTA buses know about. Therefore, today (Thursday, June 23rd), the ATU held a rally outside the NFTA’s Offices in Downtown Buffalo to call public attention to what’s really going on.
And it appears the NFTA, its executive director and executive board – who were to meet this afternoon, decided to cancel the meeting that would have coincided with the rally because, according to Crehan, they “wouldn’t have had enough board members to have a quorum,” something that he added “has not happened before.”
The rally was preceded by a TV commercial the ATU has been running for three weeks now on WIVB-TV/Channel 4. The spot features four short messages (which were created for the Union by NABET-CWA-represented personnel at the CBS-TV’s Buffalo affiliate): NFTA Cancels More Bus Routes!; Uncompetitive Wages Lead to Shortage of Drivers & Mechanics; ATU Local 1342 Workers – 7 Years Still No Contract!; and, Stop the Wait. You Deserve Better! (The individual message panels of the ATU commercials are listed below).
The Union has also created a web site – www.BuffaloBuses.com, to provide more information and is asking the general public to call their local state-elected officials and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office at 518-474-8390 to voice their opinions.
And with the National Hockey League (NHL) holding its 2016 Entry Level Draft in Buffalo at the First Niagara Center when the NHL Buffalo Sabres play on Friday, which is drawing thousands of pro hockey fans to the city, ATU Members intend to hand out fliers to those fans attending the event as a “further means of spreading their message,” Crehan said.
On another note, Crehan is further incensed with the NFTA, which has decided to increase the salary of its executive director, Kim Minkel, from $180,000 to $200,000 and make decisions on funding capital projects instead of doing what’s right for their Unionized workforce.
“Kim Minkel ‘got a raise,’ but we want to let the public know that ‘we’ve been without a raise’ for nearly eight years now. All the while, there are forty open positions for NFTA Drivers and Mechanics that ‘they can’t fill’ because of the staring wage. Soon, it will be ‘more lucrative’ to ‘flip hamburgers’ than to drive a ($500,000) bus with fifty lives on it,” Crehan told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper.
What makes it even more infuriating, Crehan says, is that in Rochester, Bus Drivers employed by that city’s public transit system make $34 an hour.
“The NFTA just ‘isn’t paying’ a ‘quality’ wage rate,” he said.
With that said, WNYLaborToday.com asked Crehan why the NFTA will not sit down and bargain a fair contract with its ATU-represented workforce.
His answer: “Because they want to bust the Union.”
By the way, Crehan told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper at today’s rally that “no new negotiations” have been scheduled and that the last time the ATU met with NFTA representatives to bargain a new contract “was in February of this year.”