Shuttle bus drivers ratify new agreement

Best bus contract in the nation

Photo of negotiating team

When 350 tech shuttle bus drivers who work for Hallcon and WeDriveU gathered in Newark in June, they had a real conundrum: do they accept the employer’s three-year contract offer, which included sizable raises, great language, and a chunk of money into their 401(k) plan? Or do they hold out to get into the pension plan? By an overwhelming majority, they rejected the company’s offer. On September 22, they came back to Newark and, by another resounding majority, they accepted the richest contract in the industry.

Photo of hand inserting ballot in ballot box   Photo of members tallying votes

After the drivers voted down the company’s June offer, the talks progressed slowly. To push things ahead, the union held an action at the Castro Street bus stop in San Francisco, where they stopped buses for 3-5 minutes to distribute information about negotiations to the riders. Not long after, the companies brought in a few dozen replacement workers who wore vests proudly proclaiming ‘Strike Relief.’ “We knew that the companies could never replace all of our drivers, and could never afford to house and feed outside drivers for long,” says Business Rep Stacy Murphy. “But it’s a useful scare tactic that employers use.”

The bargaining team met with a Federal Mediator on September 11, and the talks were hot and heavy. While the companies refused to consider a pension, by holding out and not accepting the initial contract, the drivers got $1.17 more per hour and numerous other improvements than had they accepted the original deal. In all, the drivers will each bring home more than $50,000 in wage and retirement increases over three years, and that number could be even higher if they take advantage of the company match on their 401(k).

When presenting the proposal, Business Rep Adolph Felix asked who had been driving with the two companies before the first contract three years ago. He wanted to remind everybody that before they came into the union, the drivers had no overtime pay, no holidays, meager vacations, no coverage for their split shifts and were earning just $16/hour. “And now you’re the highest paid drivers in the country.”

That move into the middle class came from having a union. “As a result of your fight, school bus drivers went from $13 to $21 per hour in wages. Paratransit driver wages have been brought up significantly as well. You’ve done a job for everyone in this industry across Northern California, and it’s now spreading to Seattle,” Felix explained.

Most important, the union positioned itself well for the next contract. “Ultimately, the companies weren’t ready to commit to a pension plan. But we were able to use that as leverage to get everything else that we wanted,” Felix told the drivers. That includes a signing bonus, many language improvements, an 8-hour guarantee, and much more. “And that means that there won’t be anything but a pension for them to offer in the next contract.”

Ultimately, he added, “the company didn’t give you anything. You fought for it. The federal mediator said that the bargaining team was the most engaged, hardworking committee he has ever seen.” The team thanked the drivers for their fortitude, and reminded them that the most important thing they can do before this contract expires is help organize the rest of the industry.

Back to Home Page