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Metro Transit Workers Approve Union Contract Offer, Ending Long Negotiation

People gathered outside the Amalgamated Transit Union 788 after voting on an employment contract on Oct. 1, 2019.
File photo | Andrea Smith | St. Louis Public Radio
People gathered outside the Amalgamated Transit Union 788 in October after rejecting an employment contract.

Union workers for the St. Louis region’s transit agency on Tuesday voted to accept Metro Transit’s latest contract proposal, ending months of negotiations. 

The new contract increases wages and benefits by more than $26 million over its three-year term.  The deal will affect the wages and benefits of more than 1,500 workers across the bi-state St. Louis area, including vehicle operators and mechanics.

Jessica Mefford-Miller, Metro Transit's executive director, said Tuesday the contract is “fair and good” and “rewards our employees for the hard work that they do each year.” She said the contract also will help attract and retain employees.

The contract includes new terms for medical benefits and sick leave. Miller said she hoped those changes would address the concerns of union members who voted against previous versions of the contract.

Union members in October had turned down what Metro Transit then called its “best and final offer” and later hired a federal mediator to help with negotiations. 

Reginald Howard, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 788, said he and the other union representatives are pleased with the contract. 

“There was a lot of work put into this,” he said. “I don’t want to toot the horn.” 

He said his biggest concern was the payment structure for the medical benefits. Union representatives were concerned that older versions of the plan weren’t specific enough about what happened to overpayments. But Howard said the newest version of the contract will use overpayments to subsidize benefits. 

The contract also grants drivers a 10-minute window to arrive and sign in for their shifts, he said. 

Howard said he thinks the new pay structure will attract more employees. Current employees will receive raises in January and July 2020, and new hires will start at higher pay rates, he said. 

Howard said the union still hopes to work with Metro to improve safety and bathroom breaks for drivers. 

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Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.