Media Center

Jul 3

As VTA Blusters and Threatens, Vineyard Bus Drivers Offer Arbitration to End Dispute

Media contacts: Steve MacDougall, 617-872-8200 (on Martha’s Vineyard)
David Roscow, 202-487-4990

 

Edgartown, MA – ATU-represented bus drivers on Martha’s Vineyard have offered through a federal mediator to enter into interest arbitration with their employer, TCI, in an effort to bring a swift and just end to the five-year-long dispute.

If TCI accepts the union’s offer to enter into interest arbitration, the strike would end immediately, employees would return to work, and a third-party arbitrator would consider proposals from both parties before issuing a binding decision on a final contract.

“We want to end this strike, but TCI can’t even find time to review our latest contract proposal. That’s why we are offering interest arbitration” said VTA driver Richard Townes. “We’re asking Angela Grant to quit spending taxpayer dollars on her ideological pursuits and instead agree to a process to bring this long struggle to a fair and just conclusion.”

The offer comes amid a groundswell of community support. Union leaders report that faith organizations on the island have begun organizing “adopt-a-family” efforts to support striking workers and their loved ones. They also say fellow unions are establishing lines of credit at local stores so that striking workers can afford basic needs. Meanwhile, union strike benefits are being processed to ensure picketers have a minimal income to sustain them as they enter their sixth day on strike.

The union says it submitted yet another proposal through a federal mediator on Monday, but TCI refused to respond to either the union or the mediator. Meanwhile, VTA Administrator Angela Grant issued an ideological missive on the VTA’s website, referring to the drivers’ union as “off-island” and “with an agenda” and its employees as “disgruntled.”

“We do have an agenda, and it’s to make sure we fight for the fair and just contract that we deserve,” said VTA driver Katherine Kavanagh. “It’s to get the wages we need to live in the communities we grew up in, and to get the respect that Administrator Grant has proven incapable of giving.”

While it’s true that the ATU, an international union, has locals across the U.S. and Canada, the dozens of members who authorized and are currently on strike in Martha’s Vineyard are known members of Vineyard communities. It’s a particularly ill-fitting angle for the administrator, who herself hired an out-of-state contractor to operate VTA buses, then empowered that contractor to hire out-of-state “scab-herding” firms, which in turn recruited out-of-state replacement workers, or scabs, to fill in during the strike. Her own chief negotiator, Greg Dash, earlier told lifelong island residents that it was their fault they “chose” to live on the expensive island.

“We are outraged by the disrespect and poor treatment of our bus drivers by out-of-stater TCI and their enabler VTA Administrator Angie Grant,” said Chilmark resident Ginny Diamond. “We are horrified that TCI and Grant are bringing in ‘scab’ bus drivers to do the work of our drivers, who are our neighbors and friends. This is not who we are. Islanders stick together and we are standing by our bus drivers.”

The union says it will be releasing information later this week that shows VTA is paying scab workers more than it pays either permanent or seasonal employees, and at a higher cost to Massachusetts taxpayers.