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A breakdown in negotiations between 41 Community Action Rural Transit System workers and the Community Action Agency has resulted in a strike.
Workers officially began the strike at about 9 p.m. Wednesday and hit the picket line at 6 a.m. Thursday, both in front of the Community Action Agency headquarters in Lisbon, and the CARTS bus garage.
They asked CAA representatives for a $0.50-per-hour raise and were denied.
“It’s just a matter of a couple pennies in wages,” said Joe Holcomb, a staff representative for the United Steelworkers, which represents the workers.
Instead of the usual nearly 30 buses out on routes, only five could pick up passengers on Thursday.
“We have a few drivers that have decided to work. We’ve been able to make about 50 trips today, probably about 25 clients,” said CAA Transportation Director Quinten Melius.
But each day, the public transportation system makes about 500 trips, primarily for seniors and those with disabilities.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the people that are really being impacted here are our passengers,” said CAA Director Carol Bretz.
Union representatives said they tried to work with CAA officials.
“They wanted to start off with a 20-cent raise, that was the last proposal from the company, and then give them another 20-cents six months later. The employees would like to have a 50-cent raise in the first year, than we can work on the other two years,” Holcomb said.
Company officials said there is just not enough money to make that happen.
“We can’t offer them more than we have. We’re limited in our funding. We’re funded through grants and the budget. We can’t spend more than our budget allows for,” Melius said.
But Holcomb is skeptical.
“I asked them for the financial analysis to prove it. All they gave me was a spreadsheet,” he said.
A federal mediator is now involved.
In the meantime, CAA is trying to keep their services going as best as possible by recruiting replacement drivers.
This is the first strike since CARTS started 30 years ago.