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St. Louis’ regional transit agency OKs new contract with bus drivers, train operators

Passengers board a bus on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at St. Louis' MetroLink’s Grand Station.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
A new contract for bus drivers includes higher pay for busy routes like the 70 Grand, shown in January 2022.

The St. Louis region’s transit agency and the union representing most of its train and bus operators have approved a new three-year deal after more than a year of negotiations.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788 voted 258-141 to ratify the deal. Metro’s board of trustees accepted it Thursday.

Taulby Roach, president and CEO of Bi-State Development, which operates Metro, said he was grateful for the ratification.

“We are all ready to move forward so we can focus on better serving our community with a renewed sense of pride and purpose,” he said.

The contract gives bus drivers, train operators, mechanics and clerical staff a 3% raise this year and next, on top of a 5% raise retroactive to July 1, 2022, that the sides agreed to last fall. It also includes higher pay for busier, late-night or other harder-to-staff bus routes.

Metro has made several rounds of cuts to bus service because of a driver shortage. Roach said the pay differential could make retention easier.

“A lot of the new drivers have a hard time because they're often working nights and weekends. So by encouraging some of our general workforce to work some of those, then that means some of our entry employees can have a better work-life balance,” he said.

The deal includes a $7,000 ratification bonus. Under the language, some or all of that amount can be directed to a 401(k) set up for employees by Metro.

“That little 401(k) boost right along with your pension is a game changer,” said Reginald Howard, president of ATU Local 788. “We’re so short of manpower that you had to do something to kind of attract people. And what Metro is doing is they’re really planting a seed.”

ATU Local 788 and Metro will be back at the bargaining table soon to negotiate a contract for drivers for Call-A-Ride, the agency’s paratransit service.

“We’ve got to get their wages up so we can get Call-A-Ride manpower back up,” Howard said. “Call-A-Ride is really short.”

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.
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