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Augusta city bus drivers vote to unionize

Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 1:38 PM
Last updated Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 2:13 AM
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Augusta bus drivers voted Thursday to affiliate with the AFL-CIO’s Transport Workers Union of America, in a move not surprising to critics of the city’s troubled transit system.

Thirty-nine of the 53 eligible employees of McDonald Transit, the city’s bus manager, voted. Thirty voted in favor and nine voted against, according to a notice sent to commissioners from City Administrator Fred Russell.

As a result, the system’s maintenance staff and bus operators will be represented by Transport Workers Union of America and will have the power to strike, while managers and supervisors will not, according to the notice.

Transit General Manager Quentarus Brown, who came on when McDonald took over the transit contract last month, said he believed the workers’ decision was set in motion while prior operator Mobility Transit was in charge.

“Pretty much they decided to stay on that path,” Brown said. “We did everything by the book on our side to make sure they were accommodated. We just happened to be in the mix of it all.”

McDonald issued a letter stating the company preferred to represent workers’ interests and would work to help them improve conditions, to no avail, Brown said.

“It’s one of those things. I’m definitely going to work alongside of them,” he said. “This doesn’t at all show any type of delay in service. I don’t foresee a strike of any sort in the future. It’s time to sit down and negotiate and see what the terms and demands are.”

Wages have long been an issue among Augusta transit personnel. Brown said a newly-hired driver earns $10.69 while more experienced drivers make $14 to $15 an hour, “way above the market rate right now” among Georgia cities such as Albany, Columbus, Macon or Athens.

“The most important thing here is the people who are depending on us to pick them up,” Brown said.

Commissioner Donnie Smith, a state trooper who had the support of Augusta’s firefighters’ union prior to his election, said he was surprised at the move.

“I’d be curious what their intent is,” Smith said. “Georgia’s a right-to-work state.”

Commissioner Bill Lockett, a longtime critic of transit operations, said he was not surprised by the move.

“History will reflect, whenever you have an employer and the working conditions are not what they should be, employees tend to, if they have the opportunity to, go out and organize,” Lockett said. “Good companies don’t have a problem of unionization because their employees are satisfied with their treatment and their compensation.”

Lockett, a retired federal employee, believed the effort began under Mobility when driver trainees were paid meager per-diem wages, then saw their paychecks bounce at the bank.

“You would think that someone who works a full week should be able to support a family,” he said. “You would think that a person the employer decides to get rid of would have due process.”

Unions “can be a good thing if run properly,” Lockett said, while excessive demands can cause “the business to go under.”

Augusta Firefighters Association Vice President Charles Masters said he was not surprised, as an increasing number of essential city staffers tire of low wages.

“Something needs to be done,” he said.

Comments (13) Add comment
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my.voice
4654
Points
my.voice 09/27/13 - 01:53 pm
9
3
"Augusta Firefighters

"Augusta Firefighters Association Vice President Charles Masters said he was not surprised, as an increasing number of essential city staffers tire of low wages"

Then get of your hind-ends and better yourself! Unionizing is just hostage taking with a fancy name.

chascushman
6653
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chascushman 09/27/13 - 02:36 pm
9
4
Way to go , now folks in
Unpublished

Way to go , now folks in Augusta are really following in Detroit's footsteps. It is already in trouble and things have just gotten worse.

nocnoc
38642
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nocnoc 09/27/13 - 02:41 pm
6
2
1st of all IF ARC still plans

1st of all IF ARC still plans to contract BUS Transit , who is to say we have to renew the any UNIONIZE carrier next time it comes up?

Costs are everything or should be, unless there is a hook or a crook involved.

corgimom
28204
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corgimom 09/27/13 - 03:07 pm
7
0
You can thank the inept Fred

You can thank the inept Fred Russell and the County Commissioners for this. And the police and firefighters are next.

dichotomy
30715
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dichotomy 09/27/13 - 04:09 pm
6
3
Yeh yeh.......unionizing

Yeh yeh.......unionizing always sounds good until the union dues start coming out of your paychecks.

Bus drivers are a dime a dozen. The drivers and the union should be McDonald's problem. If McDonald can't satisfy the contract at the stated price due to labor problems, terminate the contract and get a new company and new drivers.

rmwhitley
5526
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rmwhitley 09/27/13 - 04:11 pm
0
0
I'm certain
Unpublished

the transit workers union utilizes the same mafioso tactics as the uaw is attempting in Chattanooga with Volkswagon.

Sweet son
9716
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Sweet son 09/27/13 - 05:59 pm
6
3
Lockett said.

“You would think that someone who works a full week should be able to support a family,” he said.

He is about as "ignorant" as the bus people. If you can't support your family on your pay then get a job that will or cut your expenses as the rest of us do!

If someone doesn't like the word "ignorant" sorry. It is used plenty in the comments.

Little Lamb
43941
Points
Little Lamb 09/27/13 - 06:02 pm
5
2
Go Under

From the story:

Unions “can be a good thing if run properly,” County Commissioner Bill Lockett said, while excessive demands can cause “the business to go under.”

But when the one writing the checks for the salaries is a sovereign government, it is the taxpayers who go under. In this case, the "company," (McDonald Transit) is just a middleman who collects money from the county government and pays it out to the workers. There's no incentive for McDonald to try to keep wages down. The county has deep pockets.

laro247
132
Points
laro247 09/27/13 - 06:11 pm
4
2
Well ask Mr. Lockett how

Well ask Mr. Lockett how sucessfull his pressure washing business he had about 10 years ago was. Should have guessed he was a retired government employee. He would have starved in private business.

worriedboutdafuture
5
Points
worriedboutdafuture 09/28/13 - 07:06 am
2
2
Bit By Bit This City Is

Bit By Bit This City Is Headed Towards The Pits!....Slum Designations!, A Barely Running Bus Service Soon Secretly Under "UNION" Control...The Unionized Drivers Will Eventually Be Sorry For That Move....Union Dues will eat into their already diminished paychecks!...And In A Right To Work State.."STRIKE!"...and You Will Be Quickly Replaced!!

Riverman1
79615
Points
Riverman1 09/28/13 - 07:42 am
2
2
Commission and Unions

Those thinking the Commission will reel in the demands of this union are sadly mistaken. They will vote 5-5 anytime a vote concerning that union comes up, negating any control. Liberals love spending government money even more than they love unions.

About this being a right to work state, just try crossing a picket line and driving a bus in Augusta if they're on strike. It would be suicide.

nocnoc
38642
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nocnoc 09/28/13 - 07:40 am
0
0
allhans
23288
Points
allhans 09/28/13 - 03:49 pm
1
1
I would think this would

I would think this would increase bus fare...hardly seems fair to help unions and hurt the bus riders.

GnipGnop
11543
Points
GnipGnop 09/28/13 - 10:43 am
3
2
I would immediately rescind McDonald's contract

lay off the drivers and let them reapply for their jobs. Unions were needed at one time. They now take their members dues and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to fat cat executives that are the same thing as CEO's of major corporations. They take the remaining money and send you propaganda telling you to vote straight democratic party. This is coming from a union member that saw his dues increase 300% and based on how much I make per week and saw my representation disappear. They are no better than the corporations they claim to protect you from...

Conservative Man
5303
Points
Conservative Man 09/28/13 - 01:35 pm
1
1
Agree...

....unions had a purpose at the turn of the last century during the"robber baron" days...

Now they are nothing more than fronts for democratic party slush funds...

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