There will soon be some changes at Capital Metro. Riders probably won’t notice but many drivers and mechanics will.
Capital Metro is required to change its labor structure after the Texas legislature passed a law, Senate Bill 650, last May that basically requires transit workers to either become state employees or become employees of a competitively-bid private contractor.
To receive federal transit funding, Capital Metro employees initially needed to retain their right to collective bargaining, but the requirement was at odds with state law prohibiting collective bargaining and the right to strike for public employees. A third-party, StarTran, was installed to resolve the impasse – but SB 650 did away with that arrangement.
Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091 voted to become employees of a contractor—so they could retain bargaining and strike rights. But Friday, an arbitration panel ruled that the new contractor (which hasn't been named yet) does not have to honor the employees’ current contract pertaining to pensions and retirement benefits.
“Let’s say that I’m not surprised. And the reason that I’m not surprised is pretty much that Capital Metro pretty much hand-picked this arbitrator," said ATU Local 1091 President Jay Wyatt.
But Capital Metro Communications Specialist Misty Whited says they’re trying to meet everyone’s needs.
“Both parties want a positive outcome in this and we’ve made big strides in making decisions and coming to an agreement. It’s just this pension and benefits that’s really been the last remaining issue we’re trying to resolve," said Whited.
The union will now have to bargain with their new contractor directly.
“This is just one step in a long process. And our position is that we’re going to go forward and trying to protect our pension for our employees," said Wyatt.
The new contractor will be named this month. But for Capital Metro riders—things will probably be about the same.
“The customers probably won’t really see a difference. They’ll see their same operators, they just will probably have a patch that says who they’re working for in addition to Cap Metro," said Whited.
For more, you can view KUT's interactive timeline of labor issues.