MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As Minnesota Vikings fans were flooding into U.S. Bank Stadium — feeling a hint of Super Bowl fever — Metro Transit union workers were queuing up for a crucial vote.
What they decide will have a huge impact on the lives of Super Bowl fans come late January.
“It’s never easy,” explains Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 president, Mark Lawson.
He’s referring to the tentative contract now being voted on by the 2,500 members who operated MTC buses and trains.
Depending on how they vote will determine a Super Bowl snarl or super relief.
Lawson calls it a fair deal, adding, “we didn’t get everything we wanted, they didn’t get everything they wanted, and we made a good compromise.”
For the past six months talks between MTC management and union negotiators were going nowhere. In November union members voted overwhelmingly to reject management’s offer and authorize a strike.
That strike would take place during the upcoming Super Bowl LII, promising to shut down mass transit and creating a catastrophic mess on streets and highways.
Clearly, the mere thought of a strike was the push both sides needed to reach a fair and equitable resolution.
The thought of a bitter strike in bitter weather is very much on the minds of those voting, like driver Michael Coats.
“Because we all have bills to pay. Bills don’t stop when you are out on strike. So that would be the last thing that all of us would want,” Coats said.
A proposed three-year deal proposes to increase worker wages 2.5 percent a year. But more importantly perhaps, the deal satisfies a union demand to address and remedy driver’s safety concerns.
“It’s been an issue forever,” says 20 year veteran driver, Ed Selinske.
Selinske wants to see protective shields in all buses in the MTC fleet. Metro Transit wants to experiment with various devices, beginning in 21 MTC buses.
“There’s no reason for experimentation, we’ve got too many drivers out there being assaulted, being dragged out of their seats and beat up,” Selinske said.
Still, the compromise might very well be enough of an initial step to win over rank-and-file.
“This comes down to democracy, and we’ll see how the vote turns out,” Lawson said.
Certainly, it’s not everything the union wanted. But it may very well keep mass transit moving in these crucial months ahead. Members will have until 4:00 p.m. Monday to cast ballots and results will be known later that evening.