Feb 26, 2009

Strike blocked; RTD, union go to arbitration

This is an interesting news story from Denver, Colorado. The Regional Transportation District (RTD) supply public transit to Denver and Boulder, Colorado. After attempting to bargain a contract, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001 and RTD failed to come up with a settlement. The union served notice to the Department Of Labor of intent to strike. The interesting thing here is that union argued to the Department against a strike and recommended that unresolved issues should be submitted to binding arbitration.
State labor officials ruled Tuesday that the transit workers union will not be allowed to go on strike when its RTD contract expires Saturday.

The decision of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment means that if the Regional Transportation District and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001 fail to reach agreement on a new labor contract, unresolved issues will be submitted to binding arbitration.

The union delivered a "notice of intent to strike" to the labor department, but at a hearing Thursday, union officials said a walkout would affect the "public peace, health and safety" and strike authorization should be denied in favor of arbitration.

RTD officials argued the opposite — that a strike would be an "inconvenience" to transit users but not rise to the level of threatening public health and safety.

Advocates for the disabled supported the request to prevent a strike.

In Tuesday's ruling, senior labor department official Michael McArdle agreed with the position of the union and advocates for the disabled.

"I have concluded that a strike by the ATU would in fact interfere with the preservation of the public peace, health and safety," McArdle wrote. The "request to strike against the Regional Transportation District is denied."

McArdle ordered RTD and ATU to submit names of arbiters who might decide unresolved contract issues between the parties.

"I'm just glad that they gave us this option," Local 1001 chief Holman Carter said of the ruling.

"We really want to sit down at the table with RTD," said Carter, whose union represents about 1,900 RTD employees. "This saves our riders the concern and worry of a potential strike."

The union had said it was looking for a "modest increase in wages," while RTD management has proposed a three-year freeze in wages.

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