TheStrike – Over at Last?

It could be. KITV and others are reporting that the Teamsters agreed to an OTS-proposed contract at 2 AM this morning. The contract was the company’s “final offer,” according to KHON2.

Details about the new contract are sketchy at this point. It’s believed that the new contract will last five years. Union negotiator Mel Kahele said that the new contract includes both pay hikes and pension increases. As quoted by KITV:

“I’m not going to go into detail, but it’s a hell of a lot more than what the company had three days ago,” Kahele said.

“It’s never enough money. Are we happy? Of course not. We’re not happy, but the people are going to make the decision. That’s where its at. They’re the people that kept it strong,” Teamster International Union Vice President Jim Santangelo said.

The union will hold a ratification vote on Saturday, from 9 to 5. If the vote succeeds, bus operations could resume by Monday or even Sunday. Until then, Teamsters will continue to walk the line.

Reactions to the possible settlement have been mixed. At TheBus’ Middle Street facility, passing motorists honked horns in support of the drivers. Others have pointed out that the Teamsters changed their minds about wage increases as the strike dragged on. Honolulu Weekly writer John Pritchett blames Mayor Jeremy Harris for expanding bus service without providing the necessary funds to do so.

So, what’s next? I don’t know. I probably will buy a pass for $40, despite the fact that it’s going to hurt my bottom line badly.

Out of all of this, there’s only one thing I really, really want: Santangelo to fly home. It’s clear to me that he doesn’t understand Hawai’i’s culture. (I’m not going to call it the Aloha Spirit for now, since it’s seen better days.)

Today is day 31.

TheStrike – Day 30

Yep, they’re still at it. Let me bring you up-to-date on some of the news since my last post (in no particular order):

  • Fare increases. The City Council approved a bill today that raises fares on October 1st – the second raise this year. Adult riders will pay $40 per month or $2 at the fare box (according to Mayor Harris, the highest single-ride fare in the country). Fares also increase for children, and senior riders are being hit especially hard – the new pass for seniors is $30 per year versus $25 for two years. (Transfers, which were often abused under the old system, remain free but will be limited to one bus change.)
  • Reinforcements. Teamsters International sent Vice President Jim Santangelo to Hawai’i last week – with a checkbook – to provide both financial and morale support to the striking bus drivers. He has spoken to the media in favor of the bus drivers, but some officials have accused him of not fully understanding the situation. KHON2 has reported that Santangelo has the authority to release as much as $700 per week to the striking employees.
  • Public Relations. Local union leader Mel Kahele and Santangelo joined local radio celebrities Perry & Price in KSSK’s studios last week in an attempt to gain public support for the drivers. The PR move went sour after union employees began to call in, criticizing Kahele for not listening to union members.
  • Court Battles. The Star-Bulletin is reporting that union bus driver Anson “Slim” Ilae will not be on eligible to run for President. The Teamsters say that he didn’t pay his dues on time, but Ilae’s attorney, Michael Green, claims that his disqualification was planned. Kahele is running for re-election unopposed.
  • Longer contracts. The Teamsters, who are meeting with OTS representatives as this goes live, have proposed a five-year contract, rather than the previous three-year contracts the parties had been working on. The current proposal calls for wage increases in the fourth and fifth year, and pension contribution increases the first, second, fourth, and fifth years.

Kahele told reporters earlier this evening that the union was confident that an agreement could be reached tonight. OTS declined to comment.

TheStrike – Day 10

At 10:30 PM last night, talks broke off, with additional talks scheduled to begin today at 2:00 PM. The key issue remains wages – employees want 50 cent raises during the second and third year of the contract, while OTS‘ latest proposal says no wages during the first two years, with the option to re-open negotiations for the third year.

I must admit that I’m confused. First, the union said they want no layoffs. Then, when they got that, they said they don’t want any takebacks from the previous contract. Now, they’re asking for raises. Makes me wonder what happens if the company and city give in to that. (I really hope they don’t.)

I’m doing just fine without TheBus. I have no problem waiting for the drivers to give in.

TheStrike – Day 9

Negotiations are scheduled to resume at 10 AM this morning.

The latest proposal for fare changes, in my mind, is unacceptable. My normal commute involves an express bus. The route it takes means it takes the same amount of time as the standard bus; the only advantage is the reduced number of riders and the fact that I don’t need to transfer.

The city’s latest proposed bus fares, however, would create a special monthly bus pass for express riders for $80. That’s more than double the $30 I pay now. Or, I could purchase a regular pass ($40) and pay up to $2 on each ride. For an average of 25 rides per month, that comes out to $90. Again, the increase in price is absurd. (Oh, and they’re cancelling free transfers as well.)

Seniors will experience an even greater rate hike. The city is proposing creating a monthly pass for $5. That’s equivalent to $120 every two years – $95 more than they pay now for their $25 semi-annual passes. I agree that seniors can afford to pay more, but not that much more.

$80 is too much for me to afford. Even $40 makes me hesitant. For $55 a month, I could become a Vanpool driver. I could leave from home later, ride more comfortably, and drive the van off-hours. Plus, insurance and maintenance is fully paid for.

TheBus and the city better watch out. They’re dangerously close to losing at least one customer.