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Board: ART Labor Dispute “Must Be Resolved”

by ARLnow.com — June 16, 2011 at 9:32 am 2,010 33 Comments

County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman says that the labor dispute between a group of unionized drivers and Arlington Transit contractor Forsythe Transportation “must be resolved, immediately.”

In a statement on behalf of the rest of the board, Zimmerman said that the ART bus drivers’ concerns — about sexual harassment and the disciplining of a union leader — “need to be taken seriously.”

Here’s Zimmerman’s full statement.

Since Monday a dispute between the management of Forsythe Transportation, with whom Arlington contracts to operate the County’s ART bus service, and bus drivers represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3001, has resulted in service disruptions and a significant reduction of service on many ART routes. This situation is simply unacceptable.

Drivers have expressed concerns that need to be taken seriously, including allegations of sexual harassment, and the improper disciplining of a union representative. As this is a labor relations issue between a private company and its workers, Arlington County has no authority to intervene in this matter. However, we call on both parties to work together to resolve the issues and quickly restore full bus service for ART patrons. We urge both sides to utilize all available legal mechanisms to work toward resolution of the issues, including mediation services (such as the Northern Virginia Mediation Service affiliated with George Mason University).

It is critical to move expeditiously to resolve these issues and restore bus service at normal levels. We call for an immediate agreement between management and labor that will provide for the prompt restoration of service and an impartial investigation of worker’s concerns and a fair mediation of the matters in dispute.

Since its inception just over a decade ago, ART has been a steadily growing service, now carrying more than 2 million riders per year. It is increasingly important to the achievement of key goals of this community, including improving quality of life by offering more transportation choices, attaining a range of environmental objectives, reducing traffic congestion, and contributing to the vitality of business. It must continue to be reliable. The current dispute must be resolved, immediately.

  • TGEoA

    As this is a labor relations issue between a private company and its workers, Arlington County has no authority to intervene in this matter.

    Zimmerman should shut his pie hole with resepect to union complaints and focus on the service.

    • South Arlington

      They have authority to correct issues if Forsyth’s behavior violates any of the contractual clauses included in the Arlington County contract.

    • doodly

      The County has every right to say whatever it wants about this, and press the company to solve the dispute.

      And this IS about service, obviously.

    • John Andre

      Arlington County DOES have the authority to provide a setting for collective bargaining so that Forsythe and AFSCME can settle their disputes in a mutually agreeable manner.

      • MayorOfWestover

        The “authority to provide a setting”? What does that even mean?

  • TGEoA

    Correct. They have no authority whatsoever to intervene with how Forsythe deals with it’s labor supply.

    • doodly

      Wrong. They have every right to do that. They could even put labor issues in the contract between the county and Forsythe if they wanted to.

      • South Arlington

        They have no power to actually intervene in the labor dispute. They don’t have any privity with the contract entered into between Forsythe and the union. They can mount a PR campaign to apply pressure, but they have no actual power to intervene. As far as the issues raised by the unions, those may be issues that violated clauses or the statement of work of the Arlington County contract and the County would have recourse to correct those issues in that case.

        • doodly

          Right – they aren’t intervening, they’re just stating their views on the matter.

          The county may have recourse if there are labor clauses in the contract between the company and the county. Or they can bring all this up when the next contract comes up.

          • Stu Pendus

            Gimme an example of one of these labor clauses the County might have in their contract with the bus company.

          • doodly

            It’s not uncommon for a contractor to require certain levels of payment or only using union workers, etc. especially in a government contract.

          • Stu Pendus

            Either one apply here?

        • John Stephens

          “They can mount a PR campaign to apply pressure” Umm, that’s what they are doing.

      • doodly

        Oops, I see I used the word “intervene” myself. Not the best choice of words.

        • nauckneighbor

          If Forsythe Transportation is unable to meet the performance of the contract with the County than the County has every right to intervene with their contract with Forsythe. The union issue is with Forsythe and Arlington County should absolutely stay out of that fight. However, if Forsythe isn’t able to get their staffing under control and bring ART service back to full service, than the County could probably terminate the contract for breach.

          If I was Forsythe I would be holding a job fair and replace all of those workers who chose not to show up to work and replace them with people who would. As far as I’m concerned as an Arlington County Citizen, I want good service and expect the elected politicians to be looking out for its citizens, not unions.

          • SouthArlJD

            Oh hey, no chance at all that there is an basis to the complaints, right? We’ll just assume that the employer is right and the mean old unionized workers who don’t want to be sexually harassed or have their hours arbitrarily screwed with or whatever other complaint they may shouldn’t even complain because THEY’RE interfering with YOU and your right to travel. How Randian.

            I do not know whether there’s substance to the complaints, but a pretty substantial number of workers joined the strike and where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. I have to wonder what has happened to us in this country that we so callously dismiss the question of whether workers have been improperly treated by their employers, especially if it inconveniences us if they complain. What you’re really saying about your job fair and hiring people who won’t complain is that you want a nice, compliant, and very scared work force which will never complain about abuse because of the employer’s ability to take their jobs away with your approval if they dare to question their treatment. Nice.

          • SouthArlJD

            That’s “any basis” and “may have shouldn’t”. I should wear my glasses when I type.

  • 4Arl

    I wonder if the board would issue a statement with the same call for an impartial investigation and fair mediation if it were a dispute between county management and employees?

    • ArlingtonCountyTaxpayer

      you mean like the County manager, 2010 version?

    • Homeowner

      Or like the discrimination and harrassment complaints from the Principal at WMS and the Superindendent? Oh, that’s right they hired a lawyer to investigate, wrapped the whole thing up in confidentiality and attorney/client priviledge and issued a generic statement that the charges were unfounded. Nothing to see here…

  • brandon c

    Would it possible to add a clause within that contract that if ART bus drivers either constantly stop short, drive recklessly, roll by people at a stop, and/or get belligerent when riders call them out, that they be fired immediately. I’d be more supportive of their dispute if I thought any of their drivers were competent.

    • doodly

      Most of the drivers on route 75 are the safest, best I’ve ever seen.

    • CrystalMikey

      They are better than most Metrobus drivers.

    • KR

      Agreed! Our drivers’ performances on the ART45 route have been in a steady, tail-spinning decline since the new contractors took over. All of what Brandon C mentioned in his post happens often on our route. Complaints to Arlington Transit have gone unanswered and I miss our old drivers. Comparing ART drivers to Metrobus drivers is fine, but we’ve had many more incidents on our route with the new contractors.

  • Bender

    Forsythe isn’t the one disrupting service. The union is the one disrupting service.

    If there is any termination to be had here, it is terminating the union.

    From his work at Metro, Zimmerman has proven himself to be totally incompetent, and the bullying intervention here in favor of the union, which is the one disrupting service, only serves to exacerbate and perpetuate the problem.

    If there are sexual harassment concerns, there are legal remedies for that. Let the accusers file suit and resolve the matter in court.

    Meanwhile, enough with the rule-by-mob tactics.

    • union man

      Somebody’s an anti-union goober today.

      • TGEoA

        Virginia is a right to work state. Don’t like it? Move.

        • SouthArlJD

          Right to work. Another oxymoron, like “military intelligence” or “compassionate conservatism”. What it really means is “right to exploit because the state really doesn’t care if workers are mistreated.” It’s all about the Benjamins for the employers.

          • Arlington, Northside

            It’s usually all about the Benjamins for the employees too!

          • NArlpwns

            Another oxymoron

            Successful South Arlington Lawyers

  • John Andre

    Perhaps the thing to be done is that Virginia should repeal its labor-unfriendly right-to-work law. “Right to work” is little more than a shallow excuse enabling management to implement sweatshop conditions at will.

  • Pingback: Why I won’t ride the ART bus until the labor dispute is resolved–@arlnow @afscme | Jason Gooljar: The Working Families Party Man | Fighting in the Class War

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