This afternoon, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, which represents King County Metro workers, agreed to a three-year contract that would waive the COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) increase for the first of the three years. According to Slog, this will save about $7.8 million next year.  This is a very surprising turn of events, given the union’s recent position on wage concessions.  Nonetheless, wage increases for the second and third years have not yet been finalized.

Thoughts from PubliCola, which seem to trend toward the view that a one-year freeze is just about as far as the ATU is willing to go:

It’s hard to say who the winner and loser is here. On one hand, the fact that the union (whose president, Paul Bachtel, was saying as recently as last month that he’d rather cut bus service than give up pay increases) has accepted any concession at all is major news. On the other, the fact that the one-year COLA freeze is all Constantine is announcing seems to indicate that the terms of the agreement are favorable to the union.

You can read the full press release here. And previous thoughts from Martin on the subject.

21 Replies to “ATU Agrees to One-year Raise Freeze”

  1. Maybe KCM will stop agreeing to “cost of living” increases that have nothing to do with the actual cost of living. Somehow a “guaranteed across the board raise” become a “cost of living adjustment.”

    Some of us, of course, are still earning the same salary as 2 or 3 years ago.

    1. The COLA for Metro drivers has always been tied to the cost of living index, and not to exceed 90% of the amount of inflation.

  2. As long as years 2 & 3 offer a reasonable chance of pay increases should the economy recover, it seems fair to me. That said, if unemployment is still 9+% that possibility seems remote.

    It’ll be interesting to see what work-rule changes they’ve hashed out, if any.

    1. Without higher or new revenue sources to Metro in the next few years, the budget will have to shed upwards of 500,000 service hours in years 2012 through 2014. That’s well more than 100 full time driver positions.
      I think work rules are important, but don’t change the outcome of the overall transit service Metro can deliver. Fewer routes, and fewer miles = fewer drivers. These are not ‘Happy Times’ for anyone in transit.
      Given the sluggish recovery, I don’t see any new significant tax revenues heading to transit in the near term.

      1. PS, my worst fear is the recovery ‘fizzles out’, returning to the downward economic trends prior to all the federal stimulus measures.
        The feds have pretty much consumed that tool kit, meaning the U.S. economy will have to sink or swim on its own merits compared to world economic conditions. Not the greatest of scenarios!

      2. Without rehashing old discussions on PT vs FT, I’m thinking specifically of work rules designed to make better use of Part-Time drivers. Given a more flexible system, Metro would have the flexibility they want, part timers could get more hours, and attrition could thin the ranks without layoffs or cuts to full-time operators’ 8 hour guarantee. The audit calls for *more* overtime so in such a world I doubt even the uber-scroungers would lose out. Metro will be happy to work those folks to death – less retirement benefits to pay out.

        In my head it seems like a win-win-win situation – well, except for drivers being worked to an early grave, but that seems to be what they want.

      3. While the audit calls for more overtime, that’s only in lieu of more hiring of full-time drivers. The audit also specifically recommends allowing part-time drivers to work outside the current restrictions for backfill.

        If layoffs happen, they will by convention (and contract) happen to the most recently hired part-time drivers first, with Metro having the option of reducing the daily guarantee of 1 junior full-time operator from 8 hours daily to 5 for every 2 part-time drivers laid off.

  3. 1. “…my worst fear is the recovery ‘fizzles out…” What recovery?

    2. “The feds have pretty much consumed that toolkit…” The Feds haven’t even opened the box. We’ve got a country full of collapsing bridges, decrepit water and sanitary systems, and a passenger railroad system that would shame Elbonia. And millions of skilled people out of work. Screw “stimulus.” Hire some people.

    3. “…the U.S. economy will have to sink or swim on its own merits compared to world economic conditions. Not the greatest of scenarios!” If you mean the U.S. corporate world and the generation of politicians it finances, no argument.

    But the people of this country are another story. My workdays put me in close contact with a lot of Americans, and always end with the same observation: The institutions and agencies of this land are falling apart like our bridges. But however stresed their circumstances, our people are holding the place together.

    I hope the new 587 work rules include a union presence with some authority in day-to-day transit operations. Taxpayers, passengers, King County Metro itself will be very grateful.

    Mark Dublin

  4. It is worth noting that the headline for this article is false. While ATU *negotiators* have a tentative agreement; both the County Council and ATU 587 *membership* must vote on the agreement to ratify it. “ATU” (i.e. the nearly 4,000 members) haven’t yet agreed to anything – as there has been no vote.

    1. COLA raises for drivers are chump change for the COunty. Dow and the gang reserve the right to freeze wages, boost healthcare costs through Healthy Incentive initiatives, speed up the work and break down conditions — all while they continue to spend money like it is going out of style for a new operating base, street car lines, deluxe tunnels and stations for light rail, etc.
      Next fight? Contracting out.

      1. If you’re referring to Sound Transit, that’s a different pot of money. I also don’t view 7 million dollars as “chump change.”

      2. “boost healthcare costs through Healthy Incentive initiatives”

        boost? Where do you get your numbers on that one?

        “chump change”? I’d sure hate to know what you consider “real money”.

      3. Linda, you’re doubtless right that there’s a good deal of money wasted that should rightly go to operating personnel. However, as to new bases, capital money saved doesn’t always mean wages given.

        I’ve always thought ATU Local 587 is in an excellent position to conduct an ongoing public “audit”, exposing decisions and policies that are in the way of operations, and thereby waste public money.

        I’ve also always thought that chief obstacle to above is an old ingrained union attitude that “it’s not our job to fix it.” Maybe not- but why waste the opportunity to point problems out to people whose jon is to fix them- namely County politicians and the voters who elect them, who are also your passengers.

        Curious as to what constitutes “deluxe tunnels and stations.” Would you settle for the opposite kind? More leaks? Some rats, maybe? Truth is, if you bring the artists in early enough on the project to work with the architects and the engineers, you get a lot of beauty for one percent of project budget.

        The way we approached our rail system, starting regional transit with buses, and blending in trains over the decades, guaranteed a lot of drivers employment for years. A system that can’t be automated deserves a little gratitude.

        Of course, if enough union members really don’t want to drive railcars, you could talk somebody into granting your wish: Veolia-from France- got Stockholm years ago. C’est la vie!

        Mark Dublin

  5. Those who are unable to complete the nonsensical “program” to reach “gold” level with Healthy incentives pay more for their health care.

    Check Mike Lindblom’s comment on this very blog with regard to the amount of the COLA as checked against the entirety of Metro’s budget:

    “Each 1 percent boost in driver wages adds maybe $2m to appx. $600m annual Metro costs. So although driver raises are part of the picture, there’s much more happening with fuel, technicians, management expense, and other programs, so a couple COLA points alone won’t make or break the agency.”

    1. “Those who are unable to complete the nonsensical “program” to reach “gold” level…”

      It’s easy to reach “gold” if you just fill out “nonsensical” answers to the “nonsensical” program. I agree that WebMD’s program is kind of bogus – the older program was better.

      That said, the program is designed to help you improve your health. WebMD’s program does have good information, even if it is too detailed and silly at times. If you choose not to improve your health, that will cost the county more in medical bills but there is *nothing* preventing you from getting to “gold” other than not jumping through the hoops – that’s your choice.

  6. “that’s a different pot of money.”

    Last time I checked, they were all public dollars. It all comes from ONE pot – and is shuttled into different pockets.

    1. This betrays a real lack of understanding of what “dedicated taxes” and “bonding” mean. No, they’re not (entirely) the same pots of money. If it was all line items in the state budget, they would be. It’s not.

      1. And your comment betrays a lack of understanding of what “taxes” are. They all originate from the taxpayer – that “big pot” of money that’s out here in OUR pockets.

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