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Crimson Ride Drivers Continue Struggle for Fair Contract

By Laura Langley

Students picket with striking bus drivers at Univ. of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, AL – Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1208 went on strike here, March 1. After a successful day on the picket line, First Transit called them back to the table for further negotiations. They made the agreement that if they went back to the table, then the strike would end and the drivers would return to work. So on Tuesday, March 2 the drivers went back to their job. After a few hours of negotiating, the company still refused to agree to a fair contract for the union.

On Wednesday, March 3, the drivers showed up to work and all but three of them were sent home. The university made a statement to the entire student body saying, “Limited bus service will be available on the UA campus until First Transit and the Amalgamated Transit Union agree on a contract, and the bus operators return to work.” A student organizer, Chapin Gray, said, “The way the university is describing the situation makes it sounds like the strike is still going on, but the drivers showed up ready to work today and most were sent home. It seems to us that limiting the bus service was meant to put pressure on the union to accept an unfair contract.”

Negotiations between First Transit and ATU Local 1208 continued on Wednesday. At the end of the day on Wednesday, a statement was released from President Witt. First Transit emailed Witt's statement to Kenneth Kirk, international vice president of ATU. The statement also appeared on a local news station. President Witt said that First Transit can afford to pay the drivers more and that if their wages are not increased, then the University of Alabama will no longer be doing business with First Transit.

Students for a Democratic Society in Tuscaloosa will be holding a rally in support of the drivers on March 4. Bus drivers and other union members will be in attendance. The rally will be targeted at First Transit, putting pressure on them to negotiate a fair contract. Until the company agrees to a fair contract, the University of Alabama will keep the majority of bus drivers out of work.

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