MINNEAPOLIS -- Averting a potential strike during the Super Bowl, Metro Transit workers have voted to approve a new contract offer from the Metropolitan Council.
The contract affects about 2,500 union members who are bus drivers, light rail operators, rail technicians and other Metro Transit workers.
Voting on the final offer started Sunday and continued Monday. Metro Transit workers voted overwhelmingly to ratify the offer, with 82 percent in favor.
"We feel that they've come to the table with a fair offer," said Mark Lawson, president and business agent of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005, during voting on Sunday.
Members overwhelmingly rejected an offer in November--authorizing a strike during the Super Bowl. But after reviewing the Met Council's latest offer, union leaders recommended that members approve the new contract.
"The main issue that was most meaningful to drivers is a security issue. We've been talking throughout this period with Metro Transit about installation of security doors on the inside of the bus that would protect bus drivers from being assaulted," Lawson said.
According to Lawson, the three-year contract includes a pilot program to install barriers on some buses. It also raises wages by 2.5 percent per year for three years, allows a more extensive tool list for technicians, and assures the formation of committees to deal with safety and other on-the-job issues like access to restrooms for bus drivers.
"So there's just a variety of ways where they came to the plate. We made a fair compromise," Lawson said.
Compromises included the council giving up its request to raise the maximum hours a part-time driver could work; Lawson said the union would have liked a larger raise, as well as more vacation flexibility.
Metropolitan Council Communications Director Kate Brickman told KARE 11 in an email, "We reached this offer after many months of negotiations with union leadership. It is respectful, reasonable and responsive to what the members needed. We value our drivers, who are the backbone of this region's transit system."
Union Steward-East Metro Doni Jones said, "It's a big time for us, big time for the company, big time for the Met Council. At the end of the day, we all want to come to a decent agreement where everybody is happy and let the show go on."