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Pro vs. anti-union Grapeline drivers

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Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2007 10:00 pm

Tensions between pro and anti-union GrapeLine bus drivers have escalated ahead of a Friday vote on whether to join a transportation union.

Both sides have claimed the other side has hurled racial slurs, and the issue has divided Lodi's 38 city bus drivers and four support staff.

Stockton-based Amalgamated Transit Union Local 276 has been picketing outside of the Lodi transportation center for more than two weeks. They are trying to persuade the employees of Fairfield-based MV Transportation, which operates Lodi's bus service, to join the union.

MV Transportation took over city bus operations from Laidlaw in 2003, winning a $5 million, three-year contract, which was extended for two years in 2006 for $3.2 million. The contract is up for renewal next spring.

MV Transportation has hired consultants to explain the pros and cons of union membership. Union members have called them "union busters."

Talk of joining a union has caused a deep rift among Lodi bus drivers who say that they normally have a family like working relationship.

At a rally Sunday, Sadqat Ali, a Pakistani American bus driver who is against joining the union, said union members yelled racial slurs at him.

"They called me 'camel jockey,'" he said. "They told me to go back to my country. I have the right to protest something I don't like."

Becky Lopez, who works in the transit center office and is pro-union, found a note in her desk with a racial slur that targeted her half-black granddaughter.

"You will burn," the note read. "You started this union and you are (expletive)."

The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1892, the ATU today is comprised of over 180,000 members in 267 local unions spread across 46 states and nine provinces. Composed of bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees, the ATU works to promote transit issues and lobbies for the interests of its members.
Source: Amalgamated Transit Union.
MV Transportation, Inc. is the largest privately held and domestically owned transportation management company in the United States. The company operates 125 bus systems in 27 states. Its 5,800 vehicles are driven by 8,845 drivers. The company also employs 739 mechanics and has a staff of 1,567.
Source: MV Transportation.

Lopez said she suspects a co-worker planted the note in her desk.

"I feel it was in retaliation because I talked to the union people," she said.

MV Transportation Vice President Nikki Frenney said the company was not behind the incident and an investigation has been opened.

Ali said he is against joining the union because he prefers negotiating directly with his employer and doesn't want to pay union dues.

"MV hasn't done anything wrong to its employees," he said. "The union says we haven't had a raise in five years, but the fact is that everybody gets a raise on their anniversary."

GrapeLine driver Wendy Jelks, who is anti-union, said people who have taken sides on the union issue have lost friends in the rancorous debate.

"It's so tense that you dread going to work," she said. "It's divided friendships."

Frenney said her company has not tried to prevent drivers from joining the union.

"This is not about keeping the union out, although we prefer to work directly with our employees," Frenney said. "The drivers need to be informed."

According to company records, MV Transportation drivers in Lodi start at $12.25 per hour. After five years, they make $14.25 per hour. Drivers in Stockton, which have a contract with MV Transportation, make $11.68 after five years. MV Transportation drivers in Manteca make $10.15 after five years.

Frenney said the average rider will not be affected if the drivers join the union.

Union dues depend on the value of the union's negotiated contract, union president Vincent Contino said. Dues could start at $35 per month if the drivers vote to join the union and the union can negotiate for $15 per hour, he said.

Contact reporter Matt Brown at mattb@lodinews.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 7:43 am on Wed, Dec 5, 2007.


    set the record straight. the union never promised a set amount they were trying to get in to help the majority of drivers get from being at will employees. it is a fact that the senority list isn't acknowledged. they lay off people and keep others working with less senority. we would like a choice to be able to go to lodi drs and dentists.down the line maybe a cost of living increase

  • posted at 8:12 am on Sun, Dec 2, 2007.


    Why don't you take this issue to one of the local child care centers. Perhaps they can settle it.

  • posted at 9:59 am on Fri, Nov 30, 2007.


    joining this "union" isnt going to help the drivers it isnt going to help the comunity and its going to drag grapevine down

  • posted at 5:18 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    you must work in the office.

  • posted at 5:11 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    about the to GrapeLineDriver comment... lol I don't work there. You sound like a grumpy driver to me, maybe you should quit your job.

  • posted at 4:45 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Alan if the incident with Sadqat Ali did not happen, why did your captain apologize to him? Answer that for me please.I think you want the union to go through so RTD, which you drive for, will get the next bid for the city of Lodi! I also do not think that it is anybodys business what Sadqat Ali does or where he works! What are you going to do when the union is voted in and all these promises cant be keptnothing is in writing!

  • posted at 4:44 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    They cannot give a straight answer and they do not respect the drivers who are not pro union....this has torn MV apart at the seems. Most of these people hear these so called promises but the union will not put these promises in writing...another writer made the comment that they will get 5 more dollars an hour and better benefits.. for a low amount a month...as a wise person said "Don't count my pennies!" Some MV workers have children and this is their only income...that 20 can buy food for the children.

  • posted at 4:42 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    People do not know the whole story.... Union is a good thing but it is not for MV right now. To be quite honest I am not sure this union will ever be a good idea...they have done nothing but lie and feed on the loss of the family like atmosphere...they excluded some of the employees from the very beginning and invited others with open arms...if this is such a great thing then what are they trying to hide!

  • posted at 3:27 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Normally I think unions exist to overpay the under qualified. But in this case I think the drivers deserve at least 15 dollars an hour, plus benefits. When you look at some of the other higher paying, menial jobs with the city, transit drivers deserve more pay. I hate unions, and I grew up in a union family. Like Bob Dylan Sings "sure was a good idea, till greed got in the way". These people deserve a living wage.

  • posted at 2:45 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Reply to Sorry Alan But: The article said MV stated the pros and cons of joining a union to their workers. If MV is so neutral and caring, they should not have a ' vote no union' sign in their office. Of course the union had vote yes signs.The point is: It's disingenuous of MV to say one thing to the paper and do something else by their sign.Re-read the article and comment.

  • posted at 2:35 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Whatever the drivers decide is up to them. But, our parents put a nice roof over our head and we had a good life and they had union jobs. Why is it all of a sudden criminal to be in a union? I don't get it.

  • posted at 2:26 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Max..Union bosses raking in money, over coddled? Those people you see out there are working drivers and mechanics who are out there on their own personal time. I don't see too many 'union bosses' driving Lexus' and Escalades..Get real

  • posted at 2:14 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Gee, it seems MV forgot to mention that after 5 years drivers have a 4 year wage freeze and their jobs are less than the typical 40 hrs./week people assume. How many people out there voluntarily want to work 2 or 3 jobs to support there kids..By the way people- the 40 hour workweek, vacations,etc. were brought about by unions.

  • posted at 1:28 pm on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    To all the Anti union comments. It takes great courage to unionize. It is much easier to sit back and criticise those who are or fight to unionize. Comments like find another job etc are very poor arguments. The Bus drivers provide a very valuable service to the
    Elderly and the young. A union is the employees not fat union bosses.
    Unions have helped raise the standard of living for decades. The corelation between slipping standards of living and the decline of unions is no coincidence. Thank goodness Unions are starting to organize again.

  • posted at 10:19 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    The city gets transit grant money for Sidewalk improvements, bus shelters, bus signs, and a CNG Station and alot of other things unmentioned to public while the empty busses drive around Mr. King skims the funds where he wants them with a little left 20k for his pocket. GO UNION! THIS COUNTRY WAS BUILT WITH IT........

  • posted at 10:19 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Wow, don't the unorganized employees at city hall and other divisions close down our entire city government exactly that same amount of days with pay. Why shouldn't Union employees get the same treatment? The city doesn't need a reason to fire you and often uses that fact to get many free hours of unpaid overtime out of you. Who's going to question them for you? The city attorney? You're really out of touch or probably an unorganized silly of Lodi employee.

  • posted at 10:18 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    I just love it when people apply for a job such as yours, with full knowledge of supposedly "HOW LITTLE PAY & BENEFITS" you will get after you are hired, but still you take the job! Now all of a "SUDDEN" with all the PROMISES the UNION is shouting at you from their MEGAPHONE, you are terribly unhappy!Staright to the point....that is basically whining! Why did you take the part time job in the first place? WE readers want to know!

  • posted at 10:15 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    The Union has signs out where the passengers wait to catch their ride that say VOTE YES! Their BLUE T-shirts say VOTE YES! Nice try to portray the office as the "Bad Guy" Here! No one in the know is "Buying it" but you go ahead!And regarding "to GrapeLineDriver" comment... if you hate your job QUIT! No one hates grumpy spoiled drivers who throw tantrums! Like your job or look elsewhere!

  • posted at 7:08 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    The UNION will promise drivers 30 days paid vacation, 30 days sick leave, $5.00 per hour more,Full time for all drivers and an end to favoritism! Every driver will get preferential treatment! All for just $35.00 a month! Where can I place my vote! Promises, promises, promises, all in the name of UNION DUES deducted from a drivers paycheck!

  • posted at 7:06 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.



  • posted at 7:02 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    MV giving pros and cons,hah. They have a sign in the office saying,vote no.. I was at the rally Sunday and the only thing said to Mr. Ali was,"Shame on You." This is because he works for the State and is reaping the benefits of belonging to a union there. He's a hypocrite.ATU has contracts with MV throughout the country. Why not keep money in Lodi and help the merchants,tax base and workers instead of sending out of stste to a corporate headquarters.

  • posted at 6:58 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.



  • posted at 6:46 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    A $20,000 raise for Mr. King and five years to get a two dollar raise for driving a bus? I think that sentence speaks for itself. All city personnel were also given a raise about four months back, weren't they? Mr King begged council for them as I watched that meeting onthenet. Let them vote to Unionize and maybe other workers will too and bring back some decent paying jobs back to Lodi. $12 an hour isn't even a livable wage here.

  • posted at 6:40 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    I'd like to see the figures of the actual ridership and what even justifies Lodi to have a transit system. Again, it's all about the federal grant money. Even with those dark tinted windows you can still see the empty seats and lack of passengers. Let's see the figures, Mr. King. Does the end justify the means? How much does the city pocket for themselves by subbing out toMV? And why aren't these monies put back into transit instead of being used for other purposes?

  • posted at 6:28 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    you must be one of the few full time drivers that still gets benefits.

  • posted at 6:14 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    read yesterdays stockton record at recordnet.com and see what their article says about this issue. completely different from the sentinel. why are you so afraid of everyone, mr. weybret? (Editor's note: We delayed posting this comment because we could find no such story on recordnet.com — City Editor Andrew Adams.)

  • posted at 6:04 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    When my husband had the opportunity to go to management about 5 yrs ago, I didn't understand why he didn't. Some of his buddies took those jobs, and with their raises bought bigger houses, and better cars, etc. Then the company laid off 200 people, mainly middle management. My husband's job was protected by his union while his buddies were suddenly unemployed.

  • posted at 5:43 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    and there was nothing wrong with our working conditions before this. It's plain and simple greed at work here.
    sure everyone wants more money. but people need to realize this is a business and if they gave everyone what they wanted they would go bankrupt and we would all be out of a job. Its as simple as this if you dont like the job you have. go find another one dont force things on people that are happy with their employer and job.

  • posted at 5:39 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    To T & C
    "And you really think those dues monies aren't used mostly to pay for the members medical plan, retirement plan" the union isnt offering us medical or retirement. That is covered by MV transportation. So no the dues aren't to cover medical, retirement, and job security. even if there is a union they cant make an employer keep ypu if they want to fire you.

  • posted at 5:15 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    I dont know anyone who is "anti-labor". I do know a lot of people who are anti fat, overpaid, overperked and over coddled union bosses.

  • posted at 4:57 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    It amazes me no one will lose there job by going union. Going union can only improve the drivers working conditions. Passengers would not have to pay more. It is unfortunate that some of the drivers are anti union as this is exactly what mangmnt wants because they know if the drivers organize they will have to treat them fairly. Vote union yes. One last note I was at the rally sunday and there were no racial slurs hurled that I heard. I am not a driver ut a resident of Lodi and support the drivers.

  • posted at 3:37 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    I'm so amazed atthe ignorance of many of you posters who keep equating the Union with evil. Five years to get a two dollar raise? And you really think those dues monies aren't used mostly to pay for the members medical plan, retirement plan, job security, and legal representation on and off the job. Lodi is now and always has been anti-union town and they aren't about to change anytime soon. King and his clerical staff downtown all just got a raise. $20,000 just for him. Let them vote and decide for themselves.

  • posted at 3:33 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Who would want to be a member of a union that has a pie in the sky wage of 15 dollars an hour? that sounds awful weak to me.

  • posted at 2:45 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    just like anything else in real life you get what you pay for. Hmmmm maybe the City shouldn't automatically go for the lowest bid. Maybe they should consider the quality of service they would like the people of Lodi to receive.

  • posted at 2:35 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    "Never let a man into your heart or your home...unless he is a friend of labor"

  • posted at 2:24 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Continued...In June when a new bus contract is signed, union members if they win may just put all drivers out of a job! The NEW bus COMPANY can accept current drivers at the top of the list, BUT DON'T HAVE TO re-hire any DRIVER! Drivers! Please vote NO on Union! Raymond.

  • posted at 2:22 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    I have been riding the city buses for 4 years and I know the regular and part time drivers well! I talk to them and listen as they talk to other riders. I listen as they talk to other drivers! This union CRAP has divided many drivers and passengers! I do not support any driver going Union and if that offends them, then add me to the list of those they choose to no longer be polite too! Raymond.

  • posted at 2:18 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    The union states that dues would start at $35 per month (per person), and then could negotiate for $15 per hour wages. MV pays $14.25 per hour now, without employees paying dues. Sounds like the only one receiving a raise is the union...

  • posted at 2:16 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Continued.... A UNION who REALLY CARED would have said; "WAIT" until JULY for a new contract to be in place! Sorry, but as a daily passenger I've heard way too much harassment on the mega phone "INTIMIDATION" toward management. You're a great bunch of drivers! The UNION JUST WANTS UNION DUES! Oh yes, lets not forget, UNION drivers have to PAY to stop being a union member! Raymond.

  • posted at 2:16 am on Thu, Nov 29, 2007.


    Union members try to get drivers to vote yes, but management's criticized for attempting to show "Both sides of gong union? Sounds like the union just doesn't want the drivers to know the truth! The Bus contract's ending in JUNE! NOW was a very poor time to start a union push Thersa!



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