“First Transit is unqualified, unfit, and unprepared to assume the responsibilities associated with keeping MBTA riders and taxpayers safe,” said Mike Vartabedian, a former MBTA mechanic and current Business Agent of the machinist union. “First Transit already cheated the most vulnerable riders of the MBTA once and they must not be allowed to do so again. No matter what conditions are put on First Transit, they’ve already shown they cannot and should not be trusted by taxpayers, riders, or by the MBTA. Governor Baker needs to wake up and make sure his appointees don’t go down this dangerous path with First Transit or we will have another Keolis on our hands, or worse.”
MBTA officials have still not publicly acknowledged that the only company to apply to the bus maintenance RFP is the controversial First Transit
, a company that has garnered disdain from rider groups, municipal officials, and workers across the country, having been kicked out of multiple cities including Worcester, MA for poor service and unfulfilled contract terms. Most glaringly, First Transit illegally broke a contract with the MBTA as recently as 2009, leaving the agency with a $66 million funding gap and leading to multi-million dollar settlement in 2012 with the state’s Attorney General
Reports have also recently surfaced of MBTA private subcontractors in the parts department sleeping on the job and repeatedly providing MBTA mechanics bad orders that include the wrong parts.
Radio and television advertisements that will be part of the campaign to prevent First Transit from joining the parade of MBTA privatization failures have been posted to DontGiveAwayTheMBTA.org and InvestNowMA.org.
One of the initial TV advertisements reads in part, “Across the country, First Transit is known for its broken promises, broken contracts, and broken busses. That’s what Governor Baker is forcing on MBTA riders by bringing in First Transit… Everyone knows Governor Baker has failed to fix the MBTA. Now, he’ll make it worse with First Transit.”
As part of an “ideological crusade” to surrender public control of core MBTA services to a for-profit company, no matter how poor their track record, privatization hawks on the Fiscal Management Control Board have engaged in continued discussions with First Transit.
Also, while failing to respond to more than $29 million in annual savings put forth by MBTA mechanics in contract negotiations, MBTA executives quietly posted
a six-figure position to manage a bus maintenance contract that does not yet exist.
The in-depth talks with the unqualified vendor First Transit are also occurring in violation of the Board’s prior public vote to first engage in good faith collective bargaining negotiations with the MBTA’s best-in-nation mechanic workforce. When asked during recent legislative hearing whether they were following the board’s mandate to negotiate with mechanics, MBTA officials have on multiple occasions stumbled and demurred on the question
MBTA bus mechanics are currently rated as the best in the nation, providing a higher number of mean miles between breakdowns than any other transit authority according to the national transit database. MBTA bus mechanics earn just under 3% above national average for wages when adjusted for cost-of-living.
A diverse and wide range of community groups have also rallied to support the mechanics’ cause, with organizations including the T Riders Union, Mass Senior Action, the Chinese Progressive Association, Community Labor United, Alternatives for Community & Environment, and more testifying before the Fiscal and Management Control Board against outsourcing core MBTA bus safety and maintenance services.