Victory: MBTA Bus Maintenance to Remain Public
Following a decisive vote by union members to ratify an agreement between MBTA officials and IAM Local 264, the Fiscal and Management Control Board voted on Monday to close the RFP process for bus maintenance. The new agreement between the MBTA and the Machinists’ Union, which extends through 2021, ensures that all bus maintenance garages will remain public – maintaining the highly-skilled workforce of mechanics, fuelers and technicians that kept the buses running through the blizzards of 2015.
Going forward, Machinists Local 264 will continue to maintain the current fleet of 955 buses. If the MBTA pursues the option to contract out any new expansion garages, they will hire from the pool of highly skilled union members. Any new garages will have to comply with the same maintenance and safety standards as the current garages – essentially ensuring the protections of the Taxpayer Protection Act are written into the contract. The MBTA will also invest $25 million annually to ensure that the necessary improvements and upgrades to facilities are made.
Most importantly, thanks to the MBTA mechanics, First Transit is not coming to Massachusetts. As Attorney General Healey warned, First Transit is a company with a troublesome track-record, including leaving the MBTA with a $66 million funding gap when they walked away from a contract in 2009. This agreement is a huge win for riders, workers and taxpayers in the Commonwealth – that ensures that public transportation remains public.
See Invest Now and other supporters’ statements on the agreement:
Public transit should be a public good and by preventing the costly privatization of bus safety and maintenance operations, the mechanics have scored a major victory for workers, riders, and taxpayers. The Greater Boston Labor Council was proud to stand with the mechanics and the many riders, community groups, elected leaders, and others who supported this cause in the name of promoting investment and defending the interests of workers and riders at the MBTA. This proves that maintaining and investing in a quality workforce like the mechanics is a necessary part of getting the MBTA back on track. Investment and collaboration are the answers, not handing over more pieces of our public transit system to private companies with questionable track records.
Local 264 is truly a union that cares not just about its membership but also about their riders and about the MBTA and taxpayers as a whole. This agreement is a win for riders because Local 264 was able to negotiate a solution that kept the best performing mechanics in the nation on the job – and with the same cost-savings package the union had proposed from very early on. It’s a win for organized labor because it shows the power of sticking together and of uniting with community groups to get the facts out in a clear, consistent manner. Many of these mechanics and fuelers are military veterans and parents who stood up and fought back not just to protect riders, but also to protect their families and communities. We applaud the mechanics of IAM Local 264 for conducting a successful and honorable campaign to preserve high quality safety and maintenance services at the MBTA.
The fact that all current and potential replacement garages will be staffed by the high quality, Local 264 workforce is a major win for all stakeholders, including for the MBTA as a system. This is a bellwether moment for Massachusetts – demonstrating the power of when community and unions work together to protect a public resource that should remain under public control. The fact that the contract includes major investments in the existing facilities is another major win. The pathway to a stronger MBTA must include stronger investments in public transit. The privatization narrative fell apart in this instance because you had a workforce of the highest caliber partnering with community groups and riders who understood that bringing in a company like First Transit would be indefensible.
This is a huge win not only for MBTA riders but also for the public in general. The new agreement between the MBTA and the Machinists’ Union ensures that all current and replacement bus maintenance garages will remain public—preserving democratic decision-making along with the highly-skilled workforce that kept the buses running through the blizzards of 2015. It also includes major investments in the existing facilities. As a crucial public good, people count on public transit day in and day out to get to work, the doctor's office, and the grocery store. It's also fundamental to a thriving and sustainable local economy. Privatization risks all of that by limiting how much say communities have in decision-making and setting off a race to the bottom on worker wages and benefits. Privatization is another word for underinvestment. Riders across the Boston area want just the opposite: investments in making the MBTA's trains and buses safe and reliable.
Community Labor United congratulates IAM Local 264 members on winning an agreement that helps to maintain public control over important public transportation resources. This agreement benefits riders and the community by ensuring the MBTA maintains the best bus safety and maintenance workforce in the nation. It includes important protections for taxpayers, riders and workers moving forward, similar to the taxpayer protection act. Our community partners recognized that bringing in a company like First Transit was going to hurt the riders who rely on the bus system. We are both encouraged and relieved that the mechanics have prevailed in their campaign to protect MBTA riders from harmful privatization. We were proud to support the mechanics’ campaign and to have helped unite community groups and unions in this successful effort to avoid costly and misguided privatization efforts.