SunTran strike looms as parties fail to strike a deal

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SunTran strike looms as parties fail to strike a deal

By Simone Del Rosario. CREATED Aug 3, 2014

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The deadline for SunTran and union members to strike a deal is just days away -- but both parties are far from agreement. 

They have until 11:59 on Wednesday before the Teamsters Local Union No. 104 could slam the brakes on bus service in Tucson. 

More than a million passengers take the bus every month. 

SunTran's management put forward a 'firm and final' contract offer to union members Saturday night, and union members overwhelmingly rejected it. The vote was 262 to 79. 

The fight centers around frozen wages. Many SunTran riders sympathize with the drivers and their desire for a raise. 

"They do deserve one because they put a lot of time in and deal with a lot of attitude and hassle with the people," rider Alex Woody said. "But they definitely need to think about shutting it down because it's going to be really hard on a lot of people."

"Can't get to the VA, can't get to my doctors appointments...puts me in a predicament that hurts real bad," Antonio Ramirez said. 

The struggle of a strike is not lost on Teamster union officer Andy Marshall. 

"It's a last resort in any situation," Marshall said. "Everybody loses; nobody wins. But if there's no other option and the employees are united and fed up with the way they've been treated..."

The vote seems to suggest so. The union is standing firm on SunTran removing the freeze on their wage progression: Drivers have received one 19-cent raise in the last four years. 

"We're doing our part; we need the city to instruct the management company they contract with to do theirs also," Marshall said. 

"We can't meddle in it," city councilman Steve Kozachik said. "As soon as we do, we put our federal funding at risk."

Kozachik insists the city's hands are tied. He says they give SunTran's management group $40 million to work with and it's up to management to spend that money wisely. 

"Look at the way they purchase fuel; look at their own staffing, their own pay levels; so there are a lot of moving parts to what SunTran's management can put on the table," Kozachik said. 

The city, union members and riders hoping they put it on the table in time.