[Colorado-talk] To strike or not to strike?

Chris Foster cfoster at nfbco.org
Fri Feb 20 18:44:13 UTC 2009

Hello Fellow Federationests,
The below news article from the Denver Daily News covers a hearing held
yesterday in front of the state personelle board.  There were nearly 50
Federationests in atendance.  A couple of clarrifications are in order
as the media rarely gets things right.  First of all, yesterday's
hearing was a public hearing open to all.  It was not a group of
disabled riders begging RTD for anything.  The room was packed.  There
were at least a hundred people in the room.  They had to add several
rows of chairs.  The fact is that the majority of the attendies were
disabled riders.  There were college students, low income people, etc
etc.  If the below article seems dificult to follow, the double talk in
the room yesterday was nearly impossible.  Tom Anderson spoke
representing the CCB.  Brent Batron spoke on behalf of the Denver
Chapter.  Michelle Nichols spoke as a center student and Jennifer
Maxwell spoke as a blind wheelchair user. It is pretty much a foregone
conclusion that the union will be allowed to strike, should they choose
to.  However, this doesn't mean they will.  A lot of people believe that
RTD and the union both have too much to lose in public opinion if their
is a strike.  So, enough of my comments.  Read the below article for
more information.  Chris Foster  

To strike or not to strike?
Groups urge labor dept. not to allow RTD workers' strike
Peter Marcus, DDN Staff Writer
Friday, February 20, 2009 
     Dozens of disabled transit riders gathered yesterday to beg the
state labor department not to authorize the Regional Transportation
District's 1,900
bus drivers, light rail operators and maintenance workers to strike.
   The workers' union has filed a notice of intent to strike with the
Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.  But the Amalgamated
Transit Union Local
1001 did so only as a formality under the Colorado Labor Peace Act.  The
organization would actually rather the labor department reject a strike
and instead
call for binding arbitration.
Union officials believe arbitration would result in a third-party
decision to uphold their request for what has been described as a
"modest wage increase." 
But facing difficult economic times, RTD officials are looking for a
three-year wage freeze instead, according to union officials.
The District would also like to take control of the union's health and
benefits system, which does not fly with ATU members.
RTD officials requested yesterday at a labor department hearing that
instead of arbitration the union be allowed to strike.  Officials said
that while they
believe a strike would be inconvenient to its riders, people would adapt
to the circumstances.
"(Arbitration) would have a chilling impact on both sides to negotiate
in good faith," said Cal Marsella, RTD general manager and chief
 A decision from the labor department is expected Tuesday.
 Marsella believes authorizing the union the right to strike would bring
negotiations back to the table.  He said a third-party wage ruling could
in further budget cuts to an already struggling RTD, as well as employee
Some groups would be hit hard
But disabled transit riders - many of whom were either blind or in a
wheelchair - said an RTD strike would have a "catastrophic" effect on
them.  The group
called for RTD officials to do whatever it takes to avoid a strike, even
if that means paying workers the wage they require.
"Is the great system we have here going to be at a great inconvenience
to everyone, or will it go beyond inconvenience?" asked Julie Reiskin,
director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.
 Reiskin, along with many other disabled citizens, as well as seniors,
told stories of hardship during the last time RTD went on strike.  The
2006 strike
lasted one week.
Stories were told of overcrowded buses without room for wheelchairs.
Many disabled citizens rely on public transit for routine needs, such as
picking up
medication, visiting the doctor and shopping for groceries.  Story after
story was told of not being able to carry out these basic, daily needs.
Union officials also pointed out that students rely on public transit to
get to and from class.
Patrick Rhodes, a Denver firefighter, spoke of increased congestion
during the last strike, which made it more difficult for
first-responders to respond
to emergencies.  Others spoke of hospital departments not being able to
open because hospital staff were unable to make it to work without
transit service.
Contingency plan?
The union said RTD would have a much more difficult time handling a
strike this year compared to 2006.  Holman Carter, president of ATU
Local 1001, pointed
out that since 2006, the District's three private contractors have been
almost fully brought into the ATU.  
If RTD were to attempt to utilize the private contractors, union members
would form a picket line, preventing the buses to operate, said Carter.
the RTD services that are under union control are SkyRide to Denver
International Airport, buses from Boulder to Denver, and all light rail
services, said
union officials.
"We are seriously concerned that if we are to be on strike, that it will
have a negative impact on the community that uses this system," said
But RTD officials say they have a contingency plan that would allow for
47 percent of services to operate, despite a strike.  If need be,
officials would
move facilities away from picket lines to allow for service to operate,
said Bruce Abel, RTD's assistant general manager for customer services.
He added that commuters adapted to the strike in 2006 and would do the
same in 2009 if need be.  Abel's comments raised several shouts from the
of disabled citizens who said a strike would keep them isolated at home.
Abel, however, remained confident in his assertion.
"The human being is a remarkable animal in its ability to adapt," he

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