"Tempe Cesspool for the Arts"

aka "Tempe Center for the Arts"

Tempe bus drivers go on strike


Phoenix bus drivers told to strand passengers to join strike

Let me get this straight. Valley Metro loses money hand over fist. For every $1 in revenue it receives from customers it loses $4, which is paid for by Uncle Sam. Now the over paid Valley Metro bus drivers are going on strike because they are not paid enough. That is 100 percent BS. The article says Veolia drivers are the highest paid in the Phoenix area, earning an average of $22 per hour.

Of course if I had my way I would get rid of government run public transportation and let the private sector do the job.


Phoenix bus drivers told to strand passengers to join strike

by Lynh Bui - Mar. 1, 2012 03:36 PM

The Republic | azcentral.com

Hundreds of Valley bus drivers have been instructed to pull over on the side of the road and leave passengers stranded to join picket lines as they prepare to launch into a strike at noon Friday. [Great these *ssholes are going on strike in the middle of the day to leave people stranded at work!]

A strike could leave thousands of transit riders waiting on the side of the road until a replacement driver comes to pick them up and continue the route, but leaders of the union representing about 1,000 Tempe and Phoenix bus drivers say they have lost patience with employer Veolia Transportation Services and have no choice but to disrupt service.

While a strike would severely disrupt public transit in the nation's sixth-largest city and neighboring municipalities, service would not come to a complete halt. Veolia is required to provide at least 60 percent of normal service levels, equivalent to a Sunday level of service.

Phoenix and Tempe outsource public transit services to Veolia, which has been in labor talks with the union representing drivers for almost two years.

A strike would disrupt service for 50 of 101 Valley Metro bus routes and ripple beyond Phoenix and Tempe, impacting Scottsdale, Chandler, Fountain Hills, Gila River Indian Community, Gilbert, Glendale, Guadalupe, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Peoria, Scottsdale, and Sun City and Youngtown.

If Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 goes through with the strike, drivers would throw up picket lines at two bus garages in Phoenix and Tempe. They also plan to picket at transit centers around the Valley.

"We don't want to strand the public, but we've waited for almost two years now for a contract," Union local Financial Secretary Michael Cornelius said. [If these creeps don't want to strand the public why are they going on strike at noon which will leave half of their customers stranded at work?]

Cornelius said the strike isn't about wages and benefits but about Veolia's unwillingness to bargain in good faith with the union. Veolia, however, has accused the union of the same. [Yea, sure! These greedy drivers are the highest paid in the Valley, making an average of $22/hr and they want more money!]

If the union goes through with the strike Friday, it would preempt Phoenix's plans to have former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Ruth McGregor facilitate talks between the union and Veolia.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asked McGregor to get involved in the talks, hoping an outside, third party could resolve the dispute.

The city on Tuesday approved $25,000 for McGregor after the union requested the mayors of Phoenix and Tempe get involved in transit talks.

"We're quite bewildered by why they choose now to call a strike," Veolia spokeswoman Valerie Michael said. "They asked the city for help and that was Ruth McGregor."

Michael said Veolia's contract offer increases both wages and benefits for drivers. Veolia officials say drivers have asked for 7-percent wage increases over three years even though drivers from other Veolia properties throughout the country have averaged about 1 percent per year.

Veolia drivers are the highest paid in the Phoenix area, earning an average of $22 per hour, Michael said. [Let these government parasites get jobs in the private sector and take a cut in pay!]

Cornelius said the union welcome's McGregor's help as an outside observer, but wanted to continue talks with Veolia before she got involved.

"We don't want her or the city to be used as a scapegoat to continue to stall talks," Cornelius said.

For more information on affected routes, visit valleymetro.org.

Phoenix bus-driver union goes on strike

Remember Valley Metro loses money like crazy. For every $1 they take in bus fares it costs them $5 to provide the services, which Uncle Sam pays for. For that reason I think it is insane for the drivers to strike. Also the drivers average $22 an hour, which according to other articles it the best pay drivers make in the Phoenix area.

Phoenix bus-driver union goes on strike


Phoenix bus-driver union goes on strike

by Lynh Bui - Mar. 10, 2012 01:13 AM

The Republic | azcentral.com

Phoenix bus drivers launched into a strike against employer Veolia Transportation Services at midnight this morning.

Carrying blue signs that say "We are one ATU" drivers started picketing under gray cloudy skies outside of the garages in north and south Phoenix where buses are housed when they are not in service.

At 22nd Street and Lower Buckeye Road, more than a dozen picketers circled chanting, "What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!" The numbers slowly started to grow as drivers ended their shifts after midnight.

Buses returned from dropping off their final passengers of the night as the strike began with about two dozen drivers at the south garage.

Before the strike began, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 financial secretary Michael Cornelius reminded picketers to follow the law and be respectful.

"We are here to stand up for our rights not to act a fool," Cornelius told drivers before they started protesting.

Cornelius admitted that launching a strike at midnight on a weekend wouldn't have as much impact, but he said the union promised the city last week that it wouldn't strike until today.

Cornelius said the strike isn't about wages, but Veolia's bad faith bargaining. Veolia officials have accused the union of the same.

Driver Mack Williams was one of the first picketers this morning.

He said it would be a financial hardship to go on strike since employees don't get paid if they are not working.

"I have to stand up for myself," said Williams, a driver for Veolia in Phoenix for seven years. "I really sympathize with the riders, and I hate that they are in this predicament. But the company has put us all here."

Tempe bus drivers join Phoenix in strike


Tempe bus drivers join Phoenix in strike

by Kristena Hansen - Mar. 10, 2012 01:25 PM

The Republic | azcentral.com

Tempe bus drivers voted Saturday to strike, less than 24 hours after the same move by bus drivers in Phoenix.

Veolia Transportation Services, which employs the union drivers, plans to bring in substitute drivers from across the country to handle the bus strike that began at midnight Saturday.

Veolia wants to have enough drivers on hand before the nation's sixth-largest city returns to work Monday, spokeswoman Valerie Michael said Saturday.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433, which represents about 640 Phoenix bus drivers and 310 Tempe drivers, launched the strike outside several transit sites and bus garages after talks with Veolia last week failed to end a nearly two-year battle over wage and benefit terms.

Earlier Saturday, company officials said they are "shocked and disappointed" over the Phoenix strike, which resulted in 24 percent of the Veolia buses making scheduled runs.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton scolded ATU and Veolia on Saturday for making residents the "innocent victims" for failing to reach a solution.

"I fully expect that they will stop the quarreling, get a grasp on the big picture and resolve this issue so our city's residents can continue to live their lives," Stanton said.

Local residents who rely on public transportation said Saturday they'll be closely watching what happens.

Arizona State University freshman Adrian Carlos, 19, frequently travels the Light Rail between Phoenix and Tempe and thinks more stops should be added, if the strike continues.

"It's pretty crowded right now. I usually have to stand up on most of the rides," he said.

Richard Giguere, 56, also regularly rides the Light Rail and doesn't know what more could be done if ridership goes up as a result of the strike.

"They are already running every 15 minutes now," he said. "It's really popular."

Without word as to when union members will fill their shifts, Veolia decided to pull in other drivers, Michael said.

"We're tying up all of our time trying to get service back up on the road and we would hope that the union show a sign of good faith and call-off the strike . . . and get back to the (negotiating) table," she added.

Michael said the 22-month dispute is likely the longest Veolia has ever had with one of its unions. One of the reasons, she said, is due to the 56 contractual items that were up for negotiation.

Six of the 56 items now remain in limbo and are the premise of ATU's strike, Michael said.

In negotiating those last items, Veolia offered a 401k retirement plan, healthcare coverage, five weeks paid vacation, 11 paid holidays and the ability to accrue 60 sick days and as well as five consecutive years of wage increases.

For information on active bus routes, visit www.valleymetro.org or call 602-253-5000.

The Associated Press and Republic reporters Lynh Bui and Eugene Scott contributed to this article.

Phoenix: Bus riders should seek alternate transportation


Phoenix: Bus riders should seek alternate transportation

by D.S. Woodfill, Luci Scott, Laurie Merrill and Kristena Hansen - Mar. 11, 2012 10:37 PM

The Republic | azcentral.com

Authorities Sunday urged tens of thousands of bus riders in Phoenix to seek another way to work this morning as a strike by drivers brought bus service to a crawl over the weekend.

Tempe told its riders to also be prepared to find another way to work or school.

Phoenix officials said Sunday they had demanded more bus operators and buses from Veolia Transportation Services as the strike entered its second day, leaving many passengers stranded.

"As the workweek begins tomorrow, we are urging Phoenix riders to find alternative ways to work," said Neal Young, director of the Phoenix Public Transit Department. "Check with a friend, check with a neighbor, check with your family. Work together. Help us get through this as a community."

According to Valley Metro, 50 of the 101 bus routes systemwide reported reduced service or no service at all.

In Phoenix, 17 of the 27 routes Veolia operates were operating Sunday, and they had longer-than-usual wait times, said Matthew Heil, spokesman for the Transit Department. The other 10 routes had no service at all.

In Tempe, nine of the 14 routes normally operated by the company on Sunday had service, said Sue Taaffe, a city spokeswoman. Today, Express Routes 510, 512, 520 and 521 will not operate.

Officials from both cities said they didn't know how long the strike would last.

Veolia said Sunday that a federal mediator had been in touch with the union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433, and that both sides have agreed to meet Tuesday at 1 p.m. Union officials did not return calls for comment.

Some buses in Phoenix and Tempe are provided by other contractors and are not affected by the strike. Light-rail service also is not affected.

Young said Veoila is contractually obligated to restore service levels to a 60 percent threshold in a strike "as reasonably fast as possible."

"There is not a specific time frame," he said. "They are working to bring drivers from out of state, other properties as well as supervisors and others that can run routes, and they are moving as rapidly as they can to get that done."

Marie Chapple, a Phoenix transit spokeswoman, said the city pays the company up to $6million a month on a per-mile basis.

"The (fewer) miles they run, the less they get paid," she said. "So, it's a monetary loss to them."

When and how often Phoenix and Tempe residents can ride a bus during this morning's commute will depend on how many bus drivers show up for work.

"We are taking it shift by shift," Taaffe said. "Right now, we have no idea what tomorrow is going to look like."

In all, about 950 drivers went on strike over the weekend -- nearly 310 Tempe bus drivers and more than 640 in Phoenix.

More than 8,300 riders typically ride a bus Sunday in Tempe, which skyrockets to about 31,000 riders a weekday, Taaffe said.

Phoenix officials said Veoila has about 90,000 boardings on an average weekday. The number is about 55,000 on weekend days.

Union members voted to strike against Veolia after a 22-month contract impasse over wages and benefits.

Veolia spokeswoman Valerie Michael apologized to commuters for the disruptions.

"We know this is painful. ... We're doing everything we can to get service safely restored," she said.

Michael said the union has not made clear to the company what the sticking point is.

"When we started negotiations, we had 56 articles on the table, and all but six have been resolved for some time," she said.

About 20 strikers marched, waved signs and chanted Sunday night outside the bus storage lot at 22nd Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road.

Bus drivers who weren't striking were met with boos and shouts of "scab" as they returned to park their vehicles for the night.

Walter L. Goodman, who was leading the strikers, said a vast majority of the unionized drivers were backing the strike by not working.

Goodman said the union isn't asking for a pay increase so much as fighting efforts to reduce pay and benefits or increase out-of-pocket costs.

New drivers make about $12 an hour, Goodman said. More experienced drivers can make up to $22.50 after serving for a number of years.

"We're striking about preserving what we already have," Goodman said. "Nobody on our side is saying that we want a gigantic increase in wages and benefits."

Veolia last offered a 401K program, health care, five weeks' paid vacation, 11 paid holidays and the ability to accrue 60 sick days a year as well as five consecutive years of wage increases.

Carla Johnson, a bus driver for five years, said the company offered only a half-cent hourly pay increase. Meanwhile, the company is proposing to increase out-of-pocket insurance costs by 29 percent, she said.

She said she's already paying about $80 in out-of-pocket costs to cover her and her family.

Angel Martinez, a bus driver for over four years, said his out-of-pocket expenses to cover himself, his wife and four kids was about $300.

Having to pay more would be a serious hardship, he said.

Joe Parker, a driver for 10 years, said driving buses in the Valley is a high-risk job and that strikers are only asking to be compensated fairly.

Parker and other strikers said drivers are routinely accosted and some are even physically assaulted.

"We got a woman (driver) who got kicked in the face," he said.

Tim Tolbert, a driver for four years, said that three years ago, someone fired a gun at his bus just a few yards away from the entrance to the bus storage facility where he and other strikers were picketing.

"A girl jumped out of a car with a baby and ran in front of the bus," he said. "She got on the bus and yelled, 'Go, go, go!' A guy came up and shot at the bus. It was her boyfriend."

Elsewhere Sunday, bus rider Lou Christopher was stranded at the station at Central Avenue and Van Buren Street. He had ridden from Chandler with a friend, who dropped him on the plaza at the central bus station.

After the friend left, Christopher discovered the No. 7 bus was not running, leaving him to wonder how he'd get home to Seventh Street and Bethany Home Road.

"I'd like to take the bus since that goes in front of my house," said Christopher, who decided to make a call on his cellphone to a friend for a ride up Seventh Street.

Another passenger at Central and Van Buren had better luck. George Hamilton was waiting for the No. 3, which runs on Van Buren, so he knew he could get to 19th Avenue.

He outfoxed the bus drivers by moving several months ago close to his job when he started hearing threats of a strike.

Hamilton, who does janitorial work at Arizona State University's Tempe campus, moved near McClintock and Apache so he can either walk to work or ride the Orbit shuttle.

"I use the buses a lot," he said. "I moved closer to my job; my main concern is getting to work."

The threat of a strike loomed off and on for the two years that negotiations have been under way.

"We have been sending information in advance to quite a few people saying, 'Prepare for this.' Hopefully they have alternative plans," said Chapple, the Phoenix transit spokeswoman.

In the past two weeks, she said, announcements have been made on buses letting riders know of the possibility of a strike.

"A strike is chaotic, and we're trying to manage the chaos as best we can by giving passengers the information we know," Chapple said.

For information on active bus routes, visit www.valleymetro.org or call 602-253-5000.

Phoenix bus-driver strike hits commuters hard


Phoenix bus-driver strike hits commuters hard

by Lynh Bui - Mar. 12, 2012 09:33 AM

The Republic | azcentral.com

At about 8 on Monday morning, 62-year-old Salvador Lava stood at a bus stop with one foot planted on the sidewalk and another hanging out on Thomas Road.

When oncoming traffic wasn't rushing by, the landscaper leaned out onto the street, gazing west and looking to see if a teal and white Valley Metro bus was on the way.

Lava had been waiting at least two hours near 40th Street and Thomas Road for the 29 bus going east to Mesa. With no car, the bus is the only way Lava can get to work at Dobson and Broadway roads.

Lava is one of tens of thousands of Valley Metro bus riders impacted by a strike of Tempe and Phoenix bus drivers who work for Veolia Transportation Services. The nearly 1,000 drivers represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 entered the third day of a transit strike as residents in metro-Phoenix launched into the work week.

Lava called his boss Monday morning to let him know that he'd be late for work, but said the bus strike could hurt others who have employers that aren't as understanding.

"If you are late to work too much, you could lose your job," Lava said.

Phoenix officials said that Veolia bus routes were only running at 14 percent of regularly scheduled service levels as of 6:45 a.m. Monday. Veolia is required to provide at least 60 percent service levels in the event of a work stoppage.

The strike is the latest in a 22-month labor dispute between ATU and Veolia Phoenix.

Union officials say they are on strike to protest the company's unfair labor practices, while Veolia officials say the two sides are still negotiating over sick leave provisions, wage scales and other pay and benefit issues. Veolia spokeswoman Valerie Michael said all but six of 56 contract articles have been resolved.

The strike, which started at midnight Saturday, has hit 50 of the 101 bus routes system wide. There has either been no service or reduced service. The light rail is not affected by the strike.

The strike is likely to hit the blue-collar, lower-middle-income segments disproportionately. According to a survey Phoenix conducted in 2010, about 40 percent of city bus riders reported an annual household income of less than $30,000, and only 31 percent reported having access to a car.

It's unclear when the strike will end, though Veolia and the union are expected to return to the negotiating table Tuesday.

Sandie Worden, a disabled resident, said she hopes the strike doesn't last long.

"I have doctor's appointments set up for next week that I'm scared about," said Worden, who was also waiting for the 29 bus going east to Mesa. "It's already difficult being disabled, but it's even harder when you're disabled and rely on the bus."

For information on active bus routes, visit www.valleymetro.org or call 602-253-5000.

Phoenix-area bus riders vexed by spotty service


Phoenix-area bus riders vexed by spotty service

Some routes continuing amid strike, confusing commuters

by Sean Holstege - Mar. 13, 2012 11:22 PM

The Republic | azcentral.com

It's Tuesday morning, and the daily commute should be in full swing.

For many in the Valley, life is normal, but four days into a strike involving most bus drivers in Phoenix and Tempe, thousands of commuters, students, medical patients and others wait at bus stops. Stranded. Bewildered.

Some learn ways to cope. They bum rides, learn which routes work and take long detours on them. They walk. Or wait.

Others miss work or cancel appointments. They hope and wait -- not for a bus, but for service to return to normal.

Nobody knows when it will.

The two sides returned to the negotiating table Tuesday and were talking late into the night, but there were no signs of progress, and the strike appeared likely to enter its fifth day today.

Chaos widespread

For bus patrons, just getting to work and appointments has become a lottery.

People help each other with well-intentioned advice. Passengers share an all-in-this-boat-together vibe. But their information isn't always helpful or accurate.

Bus service seems random, but it's not. What's running depends on where you live or where you're going. In some parts of town, there's no strike, because companies other than Veolia Transportation Services operate the buses.

The Valley's buses all carry the purple and teal Valley Metro logo, but in reality, service is provided under a byzantine network of a dozen different contracts, involving multiple public agencies and private vendors. Strikes are affecting only two of the contracts.

That means generally east-west routes in Phoenix are unaffected, but not everywhere. North-south routes are badly crippled, but not everywhere. Tempe routes are eliminated or less frequent, but not everywhere.

Uncertainty reigns

It's 7:50 a.m. Tuesday, and Don Page sits relaxed near the back of the Route 41 bus trundling east on Indian School Road. He knows the bus is on time and running normally.

So it was Monday, but Page didn't know that. He was walking the roughly 2 miles along Indian School Road from his home near 19th Avenue to work at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Affairs Medical Center at the corner of Seventh Street when he watched his bus disappear down Indian School. That's when he learned his route was unaffected.

At work, he helps veterans get to appointments by dispensing bus tickets and scheduling advice.

"There were quite a few people who missed their appointments," he said. "No one knew anything -- what was running, what wasn't."

The same confusion reigned over Bus Stop No. 14490, on 24th Street and Indian School Road.

Jose Sanchez, 59, was 90 minutes into his wait for a Route 70 bus to take him south to a construction job near Baseline Road. He said he was OK with the wait -- he had waited two hours Monday. He figured the bus would show up eventually, and he didn't begrudge a bus driver trying to seek a better living by striking.

It was 8:45 a.m. The automated NextRide text said the bus would be along in five minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, Elizabeth Shepard, 35, crossed 24th Street after transferring buses. She said her driver told her no buses were running 24th Street today. Sanchez and a small group gave up and headed toward an Indian School stop.

Shepard chatted for a few minutes before starting to walk the three-quarters of a mile to her job as a phone rep. She got 100 yards before the Route 70 bus appeared. She got back to the bus and in to work on time.

Monday she missed work because she thought no buses were running.

Information sparse

The Route 70 bus, which starts in Glendale near Luke Air Force Base and then takes a turn on 24th Street and ends in south Phoenix near Baseline Road, has the least-frequent service of the routes that are running, according to Phoenix Public Transit Department official advisories.

But that's only part of the picture.

By midafternoon Tuesday, the city listed three routes as "check in the afternoon," and five more as not running at all. Within three hours, the city was saying nine bus lines were canceled. The updates are at valleymetro.org under "Bus Strike Details."

Tempe's transit department listed eight canceled express and local routes, including the popular neighborhood circulators known as Orbits. The rest were a patchwork of Sunday and regular service. The city updates its routes at tempe.gov/tim/TempeTransitLaborNegotiations.htm.

The cities update these online bulletins every couple of hours, but passengers on the street don't know that. They typically rely on phones, and passengers Tuesday said they couldn't get through to the jammed customer-service lines at 602-253-5000.

The city's contract with Veolia requires Sunday-level service, or a bus every 30 minutes on Route 70. Tuesday, the official estimate was a bus every four hours. Passengers reported one every two hours. Workarounds

Demarko Morris, 26, was one of the lucky ones. He had to wait only half an hour for the 70 bus. He managed to get to work on time.

Dorothy Fields, 41, was one of those waiting for any sign of a No. 70 bus at 24th Street. She said she was heading back from a visit to a nearby methadone clinic, where she says she gets treated for rheumatoid arthritis.

By Tuesday, she'd figured out that the 2-mile trip from her home at Van Buren and 24th streets was easier by train west and north, followed by the bus east along Indian School and a short walk south to the clinic. It was quicker than waiting indefinitely for a short northbound 70 bus trip.

She figured it out during her clinic visit Saturday, the first day of the strike. She waited three hours, gave up and walked nearly 2 miles, despite her condition. Before the walkout, she could count on a five-minute bus ride.

"I'm not mad at anybody," she said. "They (the bus drivers) gotta do what they gotta do. People gotta make a living. You just work around it." Hardships

In past transit strikes here and in other U.S. cities, stories abound of people losing jobs because they couldn't get to work. This week's walkout affects about half the Valley's routes, so workers have options. That doesn't mean they don't endure hardships.

Last fall, Valley Metro completed its most extensive rider survey, canvassing more than 15,000 people. Half of the bus riders owned no car. Two-thirds were employed full or part time. Three-quarters earned less than the median household income.

When asked how they would complete their trip without a bus, 29 percent said they wouldn't, one in 10 said they didn't know. One in five said they started riding the bus when they lost their car.

Most bus passengers have expressed understanding of striking bus drivers, but not retiree Bruce Rosen of Tempe.

His free Orbit bus was canceled. That forced him to find another way to the Metro light-rail station. He has to choose among running down the battery on his wheelchair, paying for a cab or finding somebody to give him a lift.

His trip is not optional. Three times a week he has to reach his daughter, Michelle Bennett, near midtown Phoenix. Thirteen years ago, she was paralyzed and partially brain-damaged when she was shot in a robbery. If Rosen doesn't make it, she can't eat or get household chores done.

"This is a disaster for my family," he said. "I'm mad at the system, because the people they are screwing are the people who need the service the most."

It's not just the inconvenience of adding an hour to the trip. It costs more money -- money he can't spare.

"It's a financial burden to get around now," he says, tearing up.

Transit company, Phoenix bus-driver union close to agreement

Hmmm ... The union thugs that work for Veolia want to force their will on a third party, the city of Phoenix.


Transit company, Phoenix bus-driver union close to agreement

by Lynh Bui - Mar. 14, 2012 09:11 AM

The Republic | azcentral.com

Veolia Transportation Services and Amalgamated Transit Union 1433 announced Wednesday morning that both sides are close to a collective-bargaining agreement after meeting through the night on Tuesday.

Bus service is expected to be restored Friday, but one major moving piece remains.

The only caveat is both sides want the Phoenix City Council to accelerate its vote amending how the Public Transit Department charges Veolia for liquidated damages.

The vote still is scheduled for March 21, but Mayor Greg Stanton accelerated the meeting date to Thursday morning, depending on the availability of the council and provided the city posts notice of the meeting with at least 24-hours notice to comply with open meeting law.

Stanton said while the labor dispute is between Veolia and its employees, he is putting the item on Thursday's agenda in hopes of finding a resolution and ending a strike that has stranded tens of thousands of Valley Metro bus riders for five days.

Veolia has been negotiating a collective-bargaining agreement for about 640 Phoenix drivers since May 2010. The company also needs settle a separate contract for 310 Tempe drivers whose agreement expired in June.

Veolia had a final contract offer on the table last week, but union leaders would not take it to members for a vote. ATU took issue with a provision that said the contract is "dependent upon the resolution of other issues Veolia has with the city of Phoenix."

The Phoenix City Council was expected to vote on March 21 on whether to loosen "liquidated damages" Veolia pays when bus service is late, vehicles break down or drivers miss trips. Veolia paid nearly $380,000 in "liquidated damages" from July to September, but under the proposed revisions, Veolia would have paid only $100,000.

For November 2010 to June 2011, the company paid $1.2 million in liquidated damages.

The city's Public Transit Department said it would have suggested the changes regardless of the labor talks, said Jane Morris, acting executive assistant to the Phoenix city manager.

The liquidated damages are not supposed to be considered fines or penalties, but rather an inducement for Veolia to provide on-time transit service.

If the measures used to assess damages are too stringent, the city could be violating Federal Transit Administration guidelines, Morris said.

City of Phoenix bows to demands of Union thugs.

City of Phoenix bows to demands of Union thugs.

Wow! There is sure a bunch of wimps on the Phoenix city council. All it takes is a tiny threat from some union thugs to strike and they will bend and cater to mob rule.

Remember the bus drivers were not striking against the city of Phoenix or Tempe. The bus drivers were striking against Veolia.

Valley Metro is the government entity that provides bus service to the Phoenix Metro area. I believe it is owned by or perhaps a partnership of Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and the other cities in the Valley that receive the bus service.

Valley Metro contracts with Veolia to provide the bus drivers to drive the Valley Metro buses.

The strike was between Veolia and the drivers who are represented by Amalgamated Transit Union 1433.


Phoenix approves Veolia contract fix to help end strike

by Lynh Bui - Mar. 15, 2012 11:50 AM

The Republic | azcentral.com

The Phoenix City Council voted 6-2 on Thursday morning to amend Veolia Transportation Services' contract related to on-time performance costs, making way for a possible end to a six-day bus strike by Friday morning.

Veolia and the bus drivers' union, Amalgamated Transit Union 1433, struck a "handshake agreement" to end the strike late Tuesday night and spent Wednesday hammering out contract details for 640 Phoenix bus drivers that could settle a 22-month labor dispute. But the deal depended on whether the city would agree to reduce by hundreds of thousands of dollars the fees it charges Veolia for failing to run its bus services on time. The costs, known as liquidated damages, are not considered fines or penalties but rather an inducement for Veolia to provide on-time transit service. Phoenix withholds the money from its monthly payments to Veolia.

The company paid nearly $380,000 in liquidated damages from July to September 2011. Veolia officials have said they could gain enough financial breathing space to agree to a new contract with the union that increases pay and benefits for drivers if the city relaxed the strict operational standards.

On Thursday morning, the council voted to loosen the standards for how it charges Veolia for liquidated damages and now union members are voting on whether to accept the company's contract offer. Phoenix bus drivers are expected to vote from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, with votes tallied by 7 p.m. If members ratify, bus service is expected to get back to normal Friday morning.

Bus service in Phoenix on Veolia routes was hovering around 26 percent of normal levels Thursday morning.

Council members voting in favor of amending Veolia's contract said they did so because it was a policy change the city had already been considering for months and because they hoped it would end the strike. Councilmen Jim Waring and Sal DiCiccio dissented. Vice Mayor Michael Johnson was absent from the vote; he was on a plane returning from a conference in Washington, D.C.

Councilman Tom Simplot said he felt the city's current standards for assessing liquidated damages were too strict and could put the city at legal risk. He was prepared to vote in favor of the item when it was first discussed late last year, he said.

But the strike that has stranded or inconvenienced tens of thousands of Valley Metro bus riders makes "the support of this change even more timely," Simplot said.

Councilwoman Thelda Williams also voted in favor of the contract change, though reluctantly.

She wanted to get the buses back on the road to serve the public, but "we are being manipulated and I don't like that either," Williams said.

Some council members were concerned that it looked like the city was paying Veolia to end the strike by relaxing standards for liquidated damages. Not only will Phoenix receive less money in liquidated damages because of the changes, but the city also will pay the company more than $700,000 because the amendments are retroactive to July 1, 2011.

"The implication is now it's the City Council's fault" for not ending the strike, Waring said.

The council was set to discuss the contract changes on March 21, but Mayor Greg Stanton moved the vote to Thursday in an effort to end the strike.

Stanton said the city had been discussing liquidated damages "separate and apart" from the strike and at the end of the day, ending the strike was about "helping the working people of this city."

About 310 Tempe workers are also on strike. ATU 1433 Financial Secretary Michael Cornelius said a sticking point remains with Tempe drivers' contract, including "drastically" higher costs for health care compared with Phoenix drivers. But he said union leaders want to allow drivers to weigh Veolia Tempe's proposal. If the Tempe contract is approved Friday, he expects Tempe bus service to be restored on Saturday.

Tempe, EV bus strike extended through Friday


Tempe, EV bus strike extended through Friday

Posted: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 11:03 am

By Garin Groff, Tribune

A transit union has delayed a vote to end the drivers’ strike in Tempe and some East Valley routes, leaving passengers stranded at least through Friday.

All drivers had been set to vote on Thursday, but the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433 said on Thursday that it couldn’t handle elections for separate Phoenix and Tempe contracts on the same day.

Valley Metro said the goal is to restore full service on Friday if the union votes to end the strike, but the transit agency couldn’t guarantee all routes would operate normally. A Friday Tempe union vote could restore service there as early as Saturday.

The union and transit workers said they reached a tentative agreement Wednesday.

Drivers went on strike late Saturday, forcing Veolia to scale back many routes to hourly Sunday service scheduled while other routes were cancelled. Tempe was hit the hardest among East Valley communities, with some disruption in Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa.

The Veolia routes in Tempe are operating at 42 percent of normal weekday service levels, and overall Tempe service is at 60 percent of normal levels.

The strike has cancelled service on the East Valley Express routes 520 and 521, and Orbit routes Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter. Only Orbit Earth is operating.

Route 72 is operating on a Saturday schedule, and Sunday schedules are in place for routes 48, 56, 62, 65, 66, 72, 81 and 108.

Regular service is in place on routes 30, 40, 45, and 61.

Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

Phoenix buses are back on road today

Tempe bus drivers still on strike


Phoenix buses are back on road today

Tempe drivers vote on a contract Friday

by Lynh Bui - Mar. 16, 2012 06:30 AM

The Republic | azcentral.com

Buses in Phoenix are back on a full schedule for the first time since drivers walked out in a labor dispute last week.

Phoenix transit workers voted almost unanimously to end their six-day walkout Thursday and put their buses back on the road this morning.

The vote to accept a new five-year labor contract with Veolia Transportation Services put an end to a week of disruptions, inconvenience and missed work for the commuting public and came after the Phoenix City Council voted earlier in the day to relax the company's contract to give it financial breathing room.

Bus service for 31 Veolia-operated routes in Phoenix has ranged from 6 percent of normal levels to slightly over 30 percent since workers walked out at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Tens of thousands of Valley Metro bus passengers reported waiting at least an hour for rides to get to work, school and medical appointments. Some bus passengers had to take cabs, rent cars or seek rides from friends and neighbors to get around during the strike.

The Valley Metro bus system won't be fully restored Friday, though. About 310 Veolia Tempe drivers who work under a separate contract are still on strike. Tempe drivers will vote on their contract today. If it is approved, Tempe bus service will be restored Saturday. Tempe drivers operate 19 of 101 Valley Metro routes.

Phoenix resident Niculae Carpen, 52, said he was happy to see the strike end. Carpen was laid off as a mechanic in 2008 and said he relies on the bus to apply for work and get to the various temporary jobs that help him make ends meet.

The strike has been particularly hard for the Romanian refugee, who never leaves the house without the Valley Metro bus schedule.

He said waiting more than an hour every time he needed to use the bus hampered his job search.

"I hope I have some good luck with a job," Carpen said Thursday afternoon at the Central Station Transit Center. "And if a bus comes on time, it's even more lucky."

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton thanked Veolia and the union leadership for bringing the protracted labor dispute to a close. Both sides worked into the night Tuesday and all day Wednesday to develop a collective-bargaining agreement for drivers, who make $50,000 in wages annually.

He also acknowledged the inconvenience suffered by the public. "Thank you first and foremost to the riders of our transit system," Stanton said. "They are a strong bunch."

Michael Cornelius, financial secretary for Amalgamated Transit Union 1433, the union representing Phoenix and Tempe bus drivers, credits the involvement of Veolia Chief Operating Officer Ken Westbrook during the talks Tuesday and pressure that Stanton put on both sides for the breakthrough in negotiations.

Veolia spokeswoman Valerie Michael said the turnaround came because of the union's willingness to bargain this week.

Veolia officials wouldn't disclose the details of the deal in Phoenix while drivers were voting on the contract.

Ninety-seven percent of the drivers voted in favor of the deal, and Cornelius said union leadership spent all day Thursday telling drivers to return to work today.

The bus strike may not have ended, however, without a key Phoenix council vote. On Thursday morning, the council voted 6-2 to adjust how it charges Veolia for failing to run bus services on time, giving the company financial relief that it had said it needed to reach a wage-and-benefit deal with drivers.

Council members who supported amending Veolia's contract said it was a policy change the city had been considering for months and hoped the move would end the strike. Councilmen Jim Waring and Sal DiCiccio dissented. Vice Mayor Michael Johnson missed the vote because he was flying back from Washington, D.C.

Councilman Tom Simplot was prepared to vote in favor of the contract change when it came up late last year, he said. But the strike that stranded the public makes "the support of this change even more timely," he said.

Councilwoman Thelda Williams voted for the change reluctantly. She wanted to get the buses back on the road to serve the public but said, "We are being manipulated, and I don't like that, either."

Some council members were concerned that it looked like the city was paying Veolia to end the strike by relaxing standards for "liquidated damages," the costs Veolia pays the city for late or disrupted transit service.

Not only will Phoenix receive less money from the on-time performance costs because of the changes, the city also will pay Veolia more than $700,000 because the amendments are retroactive to July 1, 2011.

The council was set to discuss the contract changes on March 21, but Stanton moved the vote to Thursday in an effort to end the strike.

Michael, Veolia's spokeswoman, said that there was "no manipulation" involved and that the contract changes had been in the works since mid-2011, long before the strike.

She said the city's previous standards were too strict and violated Federal Transit Administration standards.

Tempe bus drivers ratify contract


Tempe bus drivers ratify contract

Buses will roll today, but union still mad at company

by Lynh Bui, and Dianna M. Náńez - Mar. 16, 2012 10:32 PM

The Republic | azcentral.com

Tempe bus drivers will return to work today after overwhelmingly accepting a labor agreement with their employer, but drivers continued to express deep animosity toward Veolia Transportation Services.

The Tempe contract passed Friday with 90 percent of the vote.

The end of a seven-day bus strike by Tempe drivers and today's restoration of bus service make the Valley Metro system whole again after Phoenix union drivers agreed to a separate settlement with Veolia on Thursday.

But the union made it clear that its battle with Veolia, a French company, is far from over.

"We will continue waging this fight for workers' rights against these foreign corporations," the union stated on its website following the vote.

Phoenix bus drivers were on strike for six days and returned to work Friday morning, with bus schedules restored to normal levels.

Union leaders representing Phoenix bus drivers said employees will be getting only an 11-cent raise next year and a 2 percent wage increase the following year. Under the new collective-bargaining agreement that they struck with Veolia this week, they say it will take an extra year for bus drivers to reach the top of the wage scale. Another concession the union took: Drivers won't be able to bank 144 sick days anymore. That number has been cut to 60 days in the new contract.

Michael Cornelius, financial secretary for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433, said the union, which represents both Tempe and Phoenix drivers, made several concessions and still didn't get the deal that it wanted from Veolia.

"We've been fighting to keep what we have," Cornelius said. "Wages were never our issue. It's a fair contract, but it's not great."

He said drivers didn't want overtime pay restricted and sought to protect other benefits. But the ultimate goal that led to the strike of 640 Phoenix and 310 Tempe bus drivers: "We want Veolia out. There is hatred here between the employees and their employer," Cornelius said.

The union is frustrated with Veolia after labor talks dragged on for nearly two years in Phoenix, he said. When Veolia's contract to run bus service for 31 city routes expires in 2015, he wants the company gone.

"This is the worst ... company I have ever dealt with," Cornelius said. "We've negotiated with two other (bus-service) companies this year and no problems getting a new contract. That should say something about Veolia."

John Wise said he has worked as a Tempe bus driver for the past nine years. During that time, the city has contracted with several transit-service companies. Wise said Valley commuters and drivers deserve better than Veolia.

Dwayne Handy, who has driven for Tempe for 12 years, said he had a tough time stomaching the new contract because of health-care costs. Handy said he is one of the top-paid drivers and still can't afford the $1,180 a month it costs to insure his family. "Who could afford that?"

Tempe drivers may get their wish to see the city stop doing business with Veolia come June 30, 2013, when the company's contract with the city expires.

Greg Jordan, a Tempe transit manager, said the city plans to combine Tempe's bus contract with the Veolia Regional Public Transportation Authority bus contract. The new contract will be issued this summer, and a bid is expected to be selected by fall. Veolia and any other interested companies are eligible to bid for the contract.

Veolia spokeswoman Valerie Michael said Friday that the company would not disclose the details of the collective-bargaining agreement it struck with Phoenix bus drivers while the Tempe drivers were still on strike.

All she would say is that she thought the offer Veolia made with Phoenix drivers was fair.

Although union officials have accused the company of bargaining with no intention of reaching an agreement, Veolia had accused union leadership of the same during the extended labor talks.

At the end of the day, Michael said the company is happy to get buses back on the road to serve the public.

"We think it's a win for all sides and we're glad to get this behind us and move forward," she said.

Secrecy common in government union pay talks


Secrecy common in union pay talks

Cities' negotiations often preclude public

by D.S. Woodfill - Mar. 17, 2012 10:39 PM

The Republic | azcentral.com

Cities that negotiate pay and benefits with their employee unions in secret are becoming the norm instead of the exception, say union representatives and labor-relations experts.

Surprise is one of the latest municipalities to drop the curtain on its yearly negotiations by imposing secrecy rules in the city code in June.

Glendale, Tempe, Chandler and Maricopa have similar laws forbidding negotiating parties from disclosing labor talks to the media or public. Surprise goes a step further, threatening to have the police and fire unions disband for two years if they violate the rule. City managers face repercussions that would be meted out by the City Council.

The move came after tumultuous negotiations between the then-city manager and the Surprise firefighters union that included public finger-pointing from both sides.

The purpose of the ordinance "is so that the public and the press do not interfere with the negotiations," Assistant City Attorney Misty Leslie said when she presented a draft to the City Council in May. Leslie went on to say the ordinance would provide the city a reason to deny any public-records requests.

Union leaders and city officials support the rules, saying they promote harmonious discussions. Critics say they're meant to keep taxpayers from having a say in how their money is spent.

Nick Dranias, director of the Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute, blasted Surprise's ordinance as "an obvious abuse of the public trust." The Goldwater Institute is a conservative watchdog group supporting legislation to ban "meet and confer" negotiations in Arizona. Dranias said state lawmakers should require officials to hold negotiations in public.

"The taxpayers have at least as much of a right as a shareholder in a business to know what their servants are doing with their money," he said. "(Negotiations) must be kept open to the public, and they must be kept open to the press. There is simply no other way that they can make sure that their elected officials aren't serving two masters instead of the one that they're supposed to serve, which is the public."

Greg Fretz, a labor-relations consultant and secretary-treasurer of the Arizona Public Employer Labor Relations Association, said negotiating in private is part of a relatively new approach to collective bargaining.

"I negotiated in the old days, where you used to be adversarial," Fretz said. "The new theory is both sides are going to have to work together. If you posture in the newspaper or on television, it doesn't do any good. You need to be talking and solving these problems face to face."

Comments made in public are often misinterpreted and foster ill will between negotiating parties, Fretz added.

"I don't like to generalize, but television -- they're looking for a sound bite," he said. "Once you start talking to the television, radio, newspaper ... there's a chance for misunderstanding."

Surprise Councilman John Williams said any deals struck between the city and unions would become public when they're discussed during the City Council's annual budget workshops, which are in April. Deals will be approved or rejected as part of the budget, usually in late May or early June.

Williams said the city isn't trying to hide anything from the public but instead is trying to take "a lot of the politics out of it, and it keeps it at that staffing level, where I think it should stay."

Other cities provide much less time for the public to digest information contained in a city-union agreement.

Capt. Pete Gorraiz, United Phoenix Firefighters Association president, said the agreements between Phoenix's public-safety unions and managers aren't made public until a week before the council takes a vote.

He acknowledged that's not enough time for a public perusal but residents elect council members to act in their best interests.

"The reality is nobody looks at it anyway," he said, except special-interest groups.

Phoenix Councilman Michael Johnson, who serves on the city's public-safety committee, said the rules avoid a cycle of accusations and counteraccusations. Like a jury awaiting evidence in a trial before it reaches a decision, the public needs to have city-union agreements before weighing in, he said.

Dan Barr, a Valley attorney who specializes in First Amendment cases, said the laws seem intended to cut the public out of the process.

"They're saying, 'We don't want you to be talking publicly about this, because Lord forbid that the public weigh in on what's going on,' " Barr said.

Barr said the ordinance's privacy provision would not hold up in court under the state's Public Records Law.

"Arizona courts have held repeatedly that the promise of confidentiality between a public body and whomever they're dealing with is not enough to overcome disclosure," Barr said.


Tempe Center for the Arts

Tempe Cesspool for the Arts