RFTA drivers begin vote on whether to join union | AspenTimes.com

RFTA drivers begin vote on whether to join union

Jeremy Heiman

More than half of the Roaring Fork Transit Agency’s drivers cast ballots Monday, the first day of the agency’s two-day union election, according to one source.

The drivers are deciding whether or not to be represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union. Approximately 50 drivers voted, and voting will continue through 5 p.m. today.

Whether or not RFTA drivers will unionize will be determined by a simple majority of the approximately 90 drivers who were on the agency’s payroll on Sept. 28, the day pro-union drivers filed their request for a union vote with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Drivers are voting on paper ballots with one “yes” or “no” question: Do you desire to be represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union for purposes of collective bargaining? Two observers are stationed at each polling place – a RFTA clerical worker and a driver who is a union proponent. Ballots are secret.

From 8 a.m. until noon Monday, voting took place in a conference room at RFTA’s Aspen bus barn. From 1-5, voting was at the agency’s Carbondale maintenance facility. Today’s morning voting will take place in Carbondale, with afternoon voting in Aspen.

RFTA general manager Dan Blankenship said campaigning has been low-key in the weeks before the vote. Union representatives posted flyers and placed them in drivers’ mailboxes, he said, and RFTA management distributed a memorandum explaining its position on unionizing.

The RFTA memo to the drivers, Blankenship said, indicated there are pros and cons to collective bargaining, and the drivers might have to give up something in order to get something else.

“You have a pie to work with,” he said. “You don’t necessarily make the pie bigger, but you can slice it in different ways.”

“We didn’t do any major push,” said Ron Kinnell, the driver who has led the unionization effort. “We were too busy with the RTA, trying to get that thing passed.”

He said the union flyer was mainly informational, explaining what the union can do for employees.

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 RFTA drivers draw up a contract and would represent the drivers in negotiations with RFTA for wages and working conditions.

In a July 1998 election, RFTA drivers rejected an effort to organize under the United Transportation Union.

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