Raleigh bus drivers rally for better conditions and a change in management

GoRaleigh bus drivers and transit advocates rallied outside of the Raleigh Municipal Building on Tuesday calling for better working conditions for drivers throughout the city.

About 50 people marched to the downtown building, shouting “Who moves this city? We move this city!” and other chants before the Raleigh City Council’s 7 p.m. meeting.

The driver concerns and complaints go back years, but expanding services and routes without consulting drivers in January was the final straw, said Dwight Spencer, a transit advocate who spoke during the City Council’s meeting.

GoRaleigh began more frequent routes and created new routes in the southeast and western parts of the city in January as part of expanding bus services in the Wake Transit Plan. The plan was backed by voters when they approved a half-cent sales tax to support mass transit in 2016.

Drivers and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents nearly 250 drivers and maintenance workers, were not consulted before those new routes were created.

Terrence Dewberry, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said drivers and workers have struggled under a challenging environment for years and that there needs to be a change.

“It is a quality-of-life issue,” he said. “I don’t mind working, but management doesn’t value the worker.”

State law prevents cities from negotiating with unions, but federal law requires governments that take federal dollars to work with unions where they exist, The News & Observer has reported. GoRaleigh has used transportation company Transdev to hire employees and negotiate with the union.

A city memo says new routes were created with new software to provide a “much more efficient set of schedules,” but it reduced the number of drivers who have Saturday and Sunday off. Drivers say they worked for years to gain seniority to have those weekends off and are back working difficult shifts.

Once Transdev realized the routes offered fewer options for senior employees to be off on weekends, staff begin working with the union and a new set of schedules was created that provided more “weekends off than previously provided,” according to the city memo.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Branch thanked the bus drivers who stood during the public comments portion of the meeting. He asked for staff to bring a report outlining their concerns and what the city can do about working with Transdev to the council’s transit committee.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University.
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