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ATU bus drivers shut down west Michigan politicians

By Tom Burke

![ATU Local 836 bus drivers resist union busting.]( “ATU Local 836 bus drivers resist union busting. ATU Local 836 bus drivers resist union busting.

Photo credit: Jeff Smith”)

Grand Rapids, Michigan – Upset they still do not have a union contract after two years, ATU Local 836 bus drivers forced west Michigan politicians to end a press conference early. Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalyn Bliss, a Democrat, and several suburban mayors are refusing to negotiate a union contract with the bus drivers that serve their communities.

Joined by a spokeswoman for U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, the politicians were there to “celebrate the environment” with new buses that use compressed natural gas from fracking.

A group of ATU bus drivers and their supporters held signs reading, “No contract! No millage!” and “ATU bus drivers deserve a contract!” Then, joined by young people, they marched to the front of the podium and started chanting “Shut it down!” This brought the press conference to an end.

A leaflet at the protest read “Vote no on the Rapid millage on Nov. 7.”

The leaflet continued, “In 2011 voters barely approved a millage request that substantially raised their taxes by over $15 million, passing by a mere 136 votes. Most of this tax increase was used to pay for the wasteful Silver Line system, a system that mimics a route that already exists (Route 1 on Division) at a cost to tax payers of $40 million dollars.”

The union bus drivers point out that two free bus lines in Grand Rapids only serve college students and the downtown portion of the Silver Line, while working people must pay for bus service everywhere else.

The ATU bus drivers want to see public funds invested in the workers instead of giveaways to big energy companies and construction firms. The transit board is using new Michigan right-to-work laws in the attempt to break their union.

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