Sides reach deal to end bus strike in Tucson

Posted at 10:42 PM, Sep 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 01:42:16-04

The transit bus system in Tucson and a union representing hundreds of workers reached a new contract agreement Wednesday to end a 42-day strike.

Sun Tran workers approved the new deal with Professional Transit Management after 89 percent of the union membership voted in favor of it, Teamsters Local 104 officials said.

Details of the new contract weren't immediately released, but union officials say full bus service would resume Thursday morning.

"I look forward to a productive relationship with the Teamsters membership moving forward, and I'm pleased a new contract could be reached," Sun Tran general manager Kate Riley said. "We recognize how difficult this process has been for all of our passengers and the community and are happy to operate all 43 routes starting tomorrow."

The two sides reached a tentative agreement about 1 a.m. Wednesday after six days of meetings.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said it was a two-year agreement that was a blend of previous proposals.

About 530 unionized bus drivers, mechanics and other workers went on strike on Aug. 6 after Sun Tran and the local Teamsters union came to an impasse over contract negotiations.

A federal mediator worked with the two sides in hope of coming to an agreement.

The union said Sun Tran hadn't addressed safety issues that bus riders face, along with worker health and pay.

Andrew Marshall, principal officer of the Teamsters Local 104, said 22 bus drivers were assaulted in the 13 months before the strike.

Sun Tran disputed the union's claims. The bus system provides about 66,000 passenger rides on an average weekday, but it had extremely limited service during the strike.

Tucson bus workers also went on strike in 1997, 2001 and 2010. The longest previous strike was around 10 days in 2001.

"Let's get Tucson moving again," Tucson City Council member Regina Romero said. "Looking forward, we must do everything within our power to guarantee that we never find ourselves in this situation again. This strike has devastated the Tucson community and very likely has done irreparable damage to Tucson's transit system."