November election set for bus drivers |

November election set for bus drivers

Jeremy Heiman

An election is set for Nov. 13 and 14 to determine whether Roaring Fork Transit Agency drivers will become members of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Voting will be spread over two days so that working drivers won’t miss a chance to vote, said RFTA general manager Dan Blankenship. The order hasn’t yet been determined, but on one of the days, morning voting will be in Carbondale and afternoon voting in Aspen. The other day, morning voting will be in Aspen and afternoon voting in Carbondale.

The foremost reason for unionizing, organizer Ron Kinnell said Friday, would be to secure pay increases, especially for starting drivers. As a result, Blankenship said he’s been working to determine the total cost to the agency of across-the-board pay increases in $1-per-hour increments.

Starting seasonal drivers now get $12.91 per hour, and drivers hired as year-round employees start at $13.46, Blankenship said. Bonuses can drive the pay much higher in the first year, he said.

Seasonal drivers hired for the winter can get a $1,000 end-of-season bonus, plus an attendance bonus of $250 and a safety bonus of $200.

“So when it’s all said and done, they have the potential for making about $15 an hour,” he said.

Though Kinnell said higher wages would strengthen RFTA by helping with recruitment, Blankenship noted that he’s got 17 people in training for the 18 seasonal positions which will open up for winter.

“Although I appreciate Ron’s concern about the starting wage, we’ve got applicants waiting here,” he said.

RFTA has done better at attracting drivers for the upcoming season, Blankenship said, because the agency was able to offer affordable housing to starting drivers on the Internet and in newspaper ads.

“It’s been working as a very powerful recruitment tool,” he said. RFTA now has 31 beds available – 20 beds in two-bedroom units, four beds in one-bedrooms at the seasonal Burlingame development and seven beds in Carbondale.

Kinnell and other drivers are attempting to unionize RFTA, seeking higher wages, more control over work scheduling and more favorable grievance procedures. The union would help drivers draw up a contract and would represent the drivers in negotiation with RFTA for wages and working conditions.

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