Beaumont Transit Workers to Picket at City Council
Published 8:43 am Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Beaumont, Texas – As infections and deaths from COVID-19 continue to impact every part of Texas, Beaumont Transit workers will take their demands for a fair contract and safer working conditions straight to Transit Management of Beaumont and Beaumont City Council members with an informational picket on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.
The protest will begin at 11:00 AM at Beaumont City Hall 801 Main St, Beaumont TX 77701.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local (ATU) 1031, representing Beaumont transit workers, has been in contract negotiations with First Transit, the company contracted by Transit Management of Beaumont, since October 2020. During negotiations, the Local has asked management to address several safety issues including providing ID badges for workers for their safety and fixing multiple major bus defects that have gone unchecked for over 2 years.
Earlier this year, workers went to Beaumont City Council with their concerns regarding the company’s decision to unilaterally change its inclement weather policy and deny lost wages to workers it ordered home during the winter storm in February.
The City of Beaumont received federal grants worth $6.2 million from the CARES Act and an additional $670,000 from the American Rescue Plan, money lobbied for by the ATU. The city receives $2.2 million in federal, state, and local funds annually to specifically be used for transit operations in Beaumont. The Union believes this money hasn’t been used to make the system safer or to support the workers who have continued to perform their duties as frontline heroes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local 1031 President Arlon Jackson says the union even stepped up to manage the front office for two weeks in January when a COVID-19 outbreak forced most management staff out on leave. “We stepped up to keep the transit company going by getting work out and making sure the building was cleaned properly,” Jackson said. “We were there for First Transit in their time of need only to receive a slap in the face during ours.”
Jackson also demanded accountability from the city. “First Transit says the city won’t give them the money, then we turn around and the city says First Transit is responsible. They’re throwing each other under the bus while the people who actually operate, fix, and ride buses suffer. We demand to know who is telling the truth!”
The union says that by contracting out the service, city leaders are trying to evade accountability. “Our union and the City of Beaumont had excellent labor-management relations for thirty years until they decided to outsource this service to a private, multinational corporation,” said ATU International Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth Kirk, who is leading negotiations with Local 1031. “You see the result: labor unrest and unhappy employees. The responsibility for fixing this rests on the city leaders who chose to hire this company and who choose every day to let it keep cutting corners on safety and keep mistreating these workers.”