The Transport Workers Union Local 208 began a strike yesterday, bringing the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) bus service to a halt. Union leadership also reached a tentative agreement early yesterday morning with COTA administration, which would end the strike after one day if the contract was voted upon and approved by union members.
Instead, union members voted down the agreement last night, continuing the strike into day two today.
“I am outraged by the results of the Union vote and every taxpayer and bus rider in this community should be as well,” said COTA President & CEO Curtis Stitt. “COTA has bargained in good faith since September and the Union and its leadership have twice rejected fair and equitable contracts that mirror the Union’s own proposals.”
No further negotiations between the two parties is currently scheduled. A special meeting of the COTA Board of Trustees has been scheduled for today at 2 p.m.
“The Union’s rejection of a contract that was tentatively agreed upon by both sides was irresponsible,” said COTA Board Chair Dawn Tyler Lee. “The Union’s negotiating team has failed to meet their obligations as Union and community leaders and tonight’s vote confirms that they have no interest in coming to a resolution. The package is fair and equitable and should have been approved.”
Stitt added that the leadership at COTA will not allow the Union to hold the community hostage and will be considering alternative options for restoring transit service to a ridership that averages 60,000 trips per day.
“This is now our priority because we are committed to meeting the needs of our stakeholders: customers, taxpayers and COTA’s non-striking employees,” he said.
The 2012 edition of Red White & Boom takes place Downtown this evening, and is one of the busiest days of the year for COTA. With no bus service, public officials are warning event attendees to anticipate higher levels of automobile congestion for this year’s bicentennial festival.
“Arrive early,” advised Rick Tilton, Assistant Director at The Department of Public Service for The City of Columbus. “Residents are encouraged to bicycle or walk to Red, White & Boom as they are able, or to carpool. It is important to remind bicyclists to have a proper operating headlight and taillight on their bikes when riding after sunset.”
Beyond Red White & Boom, there’s no current indication as to when the strike will end, and no easy solution for assisting regular public transit riders with getting to work, to grocery stores or other daily activities.
“The transportation workers have made a harmful and irresponsible decision,” said Mayor Michael B. Coleman. “I urge both parties to come back to the bargaining table today.”
The Transport Workers Union Local 208 has been emailed for comment, but has not responded as of yet.