By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Metro Transit workers are currently in contract negotiations with the Metropolitan Council, and they say they’re ready to strike if they can’t get better safety precautions.

Amalgamated Transit Union 1005 represents about 2,400 Metro Transit workers, from bus drivers to light rail operators. Union officials met with the Met Council on Monday morning following other recent attempts to reach an agreement on a new contract.

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Also Monday morning, dozens of Metro Transit workers rallied in St. Paul, calling for beefed-up safety precautions, such as better protective gear, ventilation in buses and hazard pay. Workers are also seeking a long-term raise.

“You got drivers driving around 8, 9, 10 hours a day with the windows open and it’s getting cold outside,” said Judy Jackson, a bus driver who was at Monday’s rally.

The Met Council did provide an offer, but it was rejected. The offer included a deal that would give employees a one-time payment averaging about $1,500 per worker. However, workers said the offer wasn’t good enough.

Metro Transit said they already do daily cleaning of busses and rail cars, provide PPE to workers, and installed COVID protective shields, among other steps.

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The Met Council said Metro Transit has experienced a 65% loss in revenue from a drop in ridership during the pandemic.

“We do not want to strike. Let’s get that clear, we do not want to strike,” said Jackson. “We just want to feel like we’re being protected and taken care of.”

The workers feel their demands would help not only protect them but also protect passengers.

“I’m concerned about the work environment, not just the work I’m doing but is that a good clean area to be in as well,” said LRT helper Brandi Hudson.

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A spokesperson for the Met Council said Monday that they are looking forward to positive and productive conversations. Officials say the Met Council and ATU agreed to continue negotiations beginning Nov. 13.

Kate Raddatz