Metro Transit union workers picket over pandemic compensation

A Metro Transit bus travels with the hashtag #STAYHOMEMN.
A Metro Transit bus travels with the hashtag #STAYHOMEMN in downtown Minneapolis in March 2020. The transit worker's union said pandemic compensation is a sticking point in contract negotiations.
Carlos Gonzalez | Star Tribune via AP

Metro Transit workers said they started picketing Wednesday to call attention to ongoing contract negotiations with the state's largest transit agency.

Union leaders said their members have been working without a contract for the last 10 months and authorized a strike by an overwhelming margin last September. The union says it has avoided a strike out of concern for transit users and the Twin Cities — although ridership also plummeted during the pandemic.

Ryan Timlin is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005. He represents more than 2,000 transit workers, including about 1,300 bus and train operators. He said the union and Metro Transit are not far apart on base pay, but that pandemic compensation remains a sticking point.

“This is a group of essential workers who the federal government gave huge amounts of money to Metro Transit and the Met Council to reimburse the workforce for hazard pay,” Timlin said, “and they have not done that.”

Metro Transit says it offered employees three years of raises of at least 2 percent, as well as a $500 ratification bonus, and benefits including specialty pay for certain work assignments and safety equipment and earlier access to health insurance and sick leave for new employees.

The first rally of transit workers will be followed by another on Saturday morning.

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