BURLINGTON, Vermont – A celebration was held last month shortly after Chittenden County Transit Authority (CCTA) bus drivers, members of Teamsters Local 597, announced to the public their settlement to end the strike and voted to accept a new contract last month.
“We won this fair contract because of our unity and the tremendous support from our community. This strike was hard on us and on the community, there was a great deal of self-sacrifice from many people. This contract meets our core concerns, including those that relate to public safety,” says Rob Slingerland, CCTA bus driver and spokesperson for the drivers.
According to James Haslam, Director of the Vermont Workers Center, “In the current context of the attack on public transit, the public sector and the labor movement nationally, this is a tremendous victory for work with dignity that benefits all working people in the long haul. It was an amazing example of the community rallying behind workers. There was no doubt this was hard on the riders, but the level of solidarity was tremendous.”
Management forced the drivers to strike by stonewalling negotiations for ten months, refusing to engage in an honest, respectful discussion of the drivers’ basic demands for safe shifts, fair disciplinary and grievance procedures, and humane working conditions. Additionally, years of predatory management practices created a toxic work environment, fueling justified distrust on the part of the drivers.
This strike was triggered by CCTA managements’ intransigence and arrogance. They held the public hostage for three weeks, canceled healthcare
coverage for the drivers and their families, and threatened to hire strikebreaking replacement workers, intending to intimidate the drivers at the negotiating table. In the face of all this, the drivers showed tremendous courage and unity, while the public and other unions rallied to the drivers’ side.
Now the drivers are headed back to work stronger than ever before, having developed many new rank and file leaders. With the tremendous backing of Teamsters Local 597, other unions and the community, employees are confident that they will continue to get the respect at work that they deserve.