F1 service would not be affected by Capital Metro strike, officials say

The special service that Capital Metro has planned for the United States Grand Prix and other Formula One–related events would not be affected by a strike from workers in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, which represents the transit authority's bus operators.

"If a strike was to occur during Formula One, we made a commitment to ensure all of the extra service for F1 goes on the street," said Dan Dawson, vice president of marketing and communications for Capital Metro.

Members of ATU Local 1091 voted Nov. 7 to authorize a strike against McDonald Transit. The vote gives the union the authority to strike, but it is unknown when one would occur.

A strike would not affect MetroRail, MetroAirport, MetroAccess or the University of Texas shuttle service, and it would not affect the extended MetroRail and MetroAirport service or the downtown loop route that is planned for F1–related events in downtown Austin, Dawson said.

In the event that the strike occurs, Dawson said Capital Metro has several contingency plans depending on how many workers are involved. These plans would allow the transit authority to continue the most service possible during the strike.

The union represents bus operators and mechanics for McDonald Transit, a Capital Metro contractor that operates 44 of the transit authority's 80 fixed-route bus lines. The contractor took over operations Aug. 19 from StarTran, a now defunct nonprofit arm of Capital Metro, after Capital Metro outsourced its workers. Under the contract with Capital Metro, McDonald Transit had to offer jobs to existing employees.

The labor reorganization came out of Senate Bill 650 that stated Capital Metro would need to outsource to a third-party contractor to manage bus employees or bring all workers in-house. Two other contractors, First Transit and Veolia Transportation, provide management of the remaining bus routes.

Attorney Glenda Pittman, who represents the union, said that McDonald Transit has been engaging in unlawful labor conduct since Aug. 19. She said that the National Labor Relations Act from the 1930s states that an employer cannot make non-negotiated changes to an employee's terms of employment and must maintain the status quo until a new agreement is agreed upon. Capital Metro's contract with McDonald Transit also indicates that the contractor must maintain the status quo until a new collective bargaining agreement is voted on, Pittman said.

"McDonald has changed innumerable things since it assumed operations Aug. 19," she said.

These changes include the wage structure for new employees, how vacations are taken, how holidays are paid and the elimination of seniority in certain areas, Pittman said. In August, the union filed several unfair labor practice charges against McDonald Transit with the National Labor Relations Board, which is investigating the charges.

Pittman said McDonald Transit also refused to hire union President Jay Wyatt, who was on full-time union leave to handle union presidential duties, and fired union Vice President Bob Johnson for using the word "scab," which refers to someone who crosses the picket line and is federally protected, in reference to a nonunion employee.

John Bartosiewicz, chief operating officer for McDonald Transit, said negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement began in July, and the way the negotiations have been going has not changed. He said the union has consistently stalled on negotiations.

"What we have on the table is very appropriate," he said.

By Amy Denney

Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.


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