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On the picket line

September 30, 2005 | Page 11

Capital Metro Transportation
By Jason Netek

AUSTIN, Texas--Some 800 members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091 participated in a one-day strike September 22. The union struck after a complete breakdown of negotiations with employer Star Tran.

As many as 500 bus drivers and supporters turned out for an all-day rally in front of the Austin Capital Metro bus depot on the day of the strike. For 24 hours, the entire transit system was operated by a scab force and was reduced to less than 50 buses, a mere fraction of the normal amount required to give appropriate service. Picketers confronted every scab driving in and out of the depot.

Drivers, mechanics and maintenance employees have been working without a contract since April. Along with the struggle against an increase in health care costs, the union has been fighting tooth-and-nail to defeat the implementation of a two-tier wage system. If put into effect, this would divide workers between those who make a living wage and those who don't, and would eventually drive down wages for current employees.

Local 1091 has refused to budge on the issue, and is committed to fighting for the rights of future workers--as well as those of current ones. In solidarity, members of the community showed support by picketing alongside strikers and, in the case of one local restaurant, providing strikers with refreshments.

Spirits were high all day and members of the union chanted militantly, demanding the firing of notorious union-buster Fred Gilliam, the president and CEO of Capital Metro.

During the afternoon, workers and their supporters chanted slogans like: "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" and "What's disgusting? Union busting!"

In retaliation, management has declared that it will no longer deduct union dues from employees paychecks, and says that it will appropriate funds from vending machine sales--which normally generate $500 to $700 monthly for the union. To top it off, the agency has stated it will replace all striking workers in the event of a future strike. Local 1091 may face a hard fight in the near future, but the union and their supporters are prepared to fight.

University of Vermont
By Steve Ramey

BURLINGTON, Vt.--More than 100 people came to a march and rally in support of the members of United Academics (UA) at the University of Vermont (UVM) in their push for a new contract.

The main issues for the full-time faculty are salary, benefits and workload. Part-time faculty is looking for job security and better resources for teaching. As part-time English lecturer Michelle Patenaude described, the part-time faculty are the "Wal-Mart employees of UVM."

She told the crowd about a fellow part-time professor who had been "teaching at UVM for 30 years, still has to buy her own health insurance and lives in fear every semester because the university has no obligation to re-sign part-timers." Thirty-two part time professors have been working at UVM for more than 10 years.

The university has offered the faculty a contract that Patenaude said was riddled with the phrase "at the sole discretion of the university." It includes raises that don't keep up with inflation and other compensation that could put the faculty on the lowest tier in the country.

The university's 20 vice presidents were the well-deserved targets of the rally, with the crowd loudly chanting: "Hey hey, ho ho, 20 vice presidents have got to go!" David Shiman, a professor of Education, demanded that "all workers at UVM get a fair wage--not just the 20 VPs."

As Harris Buckland, a member of Student Labor Action Project, said, "To have a university you need educators. You don't need 20 vice-presidents."

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