July 30, 2014

Charlotte bus drivers vote ‘yes’ for UTU

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The 546 bus operators employed by Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) have voted by more than a 2-1 margin to return to the United Transportation Union.

Calvin Studivant, alternate vice president of the UTU Bus Department, will now assist those bus operators in negotiating a new agreement. Studivant recently assisted in negotiating ratified agreements for UTU members employed by First Student in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Red Arrow Division of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia.

CATS mechanics and maintenance employees have long been represented by the UTU, and the drivers will return to representation under Bus Department General Committee TMM. A new local will be created for the drivers.

Working with UTU Director of Strategic Planning Rich Ross in the organizing drive were TMM General Chairperson Alvy Hughes; TMM Assistant General Chairperson Craig Patch; Local 1596 members Billy Belcher, Dwayne Cureton and Brenda Moore; Studivant and International organizers Mike Lewis and Billy Moye. Ross praised the team’s “tireless efforts and determination.”

Studivant and Lewis crafted a get-out-the-vote drive, culminating with almost 75 percent of the eligible drivers casting ballots. Lewis most recently led a successful organizing drive of maintenance-of-way employees on Georgia & Florida Railway.

CATS is the 22nd property organized by the UTU since International President Mike Futhey took office in January 2008 — 14 shortlines, three regional airlines, two commuter railroads, and three bus properties.

“Mike Futhey is to be commended for making resources available for this unprecedented string of successful organizing drives,” Ross said. “This commitment to organizing and contract negotiations has resulted in a phenomenal elevation of wages, benefits and working conditions for UTU Bus Department members in an extraordinarily difficult economic environment.”

In May, the North Carolina Public Transportation Association awarded the CATS Bus Operations Division top honors as the safest transit system in the state. The award is given annually to an urban transit system that travels more than one million miles a year and has excellent performance in traffic and passenger safety. CATS achieved a 27 percent reduction in its accident rate over the past three years.