Rapid workers picket, calling for wage increase

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Rapid workers picketed Wednesday afternoon, looking to raise awareness about their grievances against the Grand Rapids bus service.

The workers carried signs that read things like, “Honor our contract,” “Where is the fairness??” and “No zeroes for ATU heroes.”

The Amalgamated Transit Union says Rapid management must improve safety, stop service cuts, halt unfair labor practices and honor the union’s contract. The ATU says management didn’t negotiate regarding all workers before it implemented a wage increase for some of them.

Union members also claim that due to a shortage of workers, The Rapids is cutting services and leaving the public without transportation. They say a wage increase would draw more drivers.

“We’re just trying to let the public know … that we have certain demands for The Rapid, one being a fair wage increase,” picketer Louis Deshane said. “We want them to serve the public like they promised when the public voted for a millage…”

An ATU spokesperson said they will continue picketing at the Rapid Central Station.

The picket is informational only. The workers are not on strike.

The Rapid said in an email to News 8 that union leadership had not discussed the rally with management.

“The Rapid and ATU have regular labor/management meetings, as well as regular safety committee meetings. Each of those meetings was held within the last 5 business days and the ATU did not raise any specific issues related to their safety or mistreatment,” the email said.

In a statement sent to News 8 the week after this article was first posted, the union called that statement “disingenuous” and said it had mentioned safety concerns.

The bus service acknowledged it has two unfair labor practices cases now before the Michigan Employee Relations Commission, one of which is about the wage increase.

The service said that increase was “based on a market analysis after it was determined that wages more than those provided for in the union contract were needed to attract and retain our skilled technical trade positions.”

The other case is a dispute about the union’s on-site bulletin boards. The union wanted to let a non-employee maintain those boards but the bus service said said that breached its security rules.

“The Rapid denies any unfair labor practices occurred in either instance,” the email said.

The union argued that it has the right to choose who updates its bulletin boards and that there is no rule stating it must be an employee.