New bus union will be busy before RFTA contract talks |

New bus union will be busy before RFTA contract talks

Jeremy Heiman

The Roaring Fork Transit Agency and the Amalgamated Transit Union are working out how the agency will adapt to the unionization of its drivers.

RFTA drivers will form a new local organization rather than joining an existing ATU local, said Ron Kinnell, who led the push to unionize the drivers. That is expected to be formalized around Dec. 1.

Drivers who will be joining the union must schedule an internal election in the next few weeks, this one to select union officers to represent them in negotiations with management. Officers will include a local president, treasurer and board members.

Union stewards, who will serve as liaisons between the union organization and the drivers, must also be selected. Kinnell said two stewards would be selected, one each for the day shift and night shift.

RFTA General Manager Dan Blankenship said the agency and the union have tentatively selected Dec. 8 as the date for an initial meeting. In that meeting the two sides will begin to schedule meetings for negotiations. Blankenship said he anticipates some difficulty in scheduling the meetings because the bus service is swinging into its high season and everyone will be busy.

Issues that must be tackled include drivers’ wages and what existing work rules will be preserved or improved upon, he said. Negotiations leading to a RFTA drivers’ contract will be open to the public.

Blankenship said it hasn’t been determined who will represent RFTA in discussions with the union. He said a management team might include himself, operations head Paul Hilts, personnel head Beth Barnes and an attorney, plus a subcommittee of the RFTA board of directors.

In other business Thursday, the board of directors authorized the agency to purchase three more 60-foot articulated buses (the type that bend in the middle). The purchase will be done with $958,000 from a federal transit grant and another $362,000 in local funding.

The board also authorized the agency to trade three lightweight buses, which perform poorly in snow, and five obsolete buses for one new low-floor bus. The new vehicle will be used on the Music Festival route in summer and the Castle-Maroon route in winter. RFTA already has five new buses on order for use on city routes in Aspen.

Recruitment of drivers for the winter season is going well, Barnes told the board. “We’re where we need to be right now,” she said, adding she expects to have all the drivers needed by the Dec. 16 deadline.

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